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Cavs.com’s Player Week series focuses this week on a young gun whose only exposure as a Cavalier came just under a year ago at Summer League.
Dylan Windler – the 26th overall pick in the 2019 Draft out of Belmont – looked the part when he donned the Wine & Gold in Salt Lake City and Vegas, showing off his shooting, ball-handling and rebounding skills. But a lower leg injury cut short an already-truncated Cavaliers season – and the sharpshooting Indiana native will have to wait until next year for his official NBA debut.
At least Cavaliers fans got to know the standout two-sport athlete this season. And Windler got to the know the city he’ll be calling home for the immediate future.
Here are just a few of his notable quotables from his “pre”-rookie season in Cleveland …
… on coming to Cleveland alongside a pair of fellow first rounders …
"It’s been great coming into the league with some fellow rookies. I think it's going to be huge.
"We all realize that making the transition into your first couple years in the NBA is going to be hard. And it'd be even tougher doing it by yourself. So, I think coming in having two or three guys that you can grow with -- they're going through the same situation as you -- is big.
"It’ll be good to have someone you can talk to – because you're probably going to go through some of the same ups and downs as they are.”
… on being just a “part-time” lefty …
"I’m only a lefty in basketball. I guess I kick with my left foot, but everything else is right-handed.
"I throw a baseball and football right-handed, swing a golf club right-handed. I’m a little weird in that way.”
… recalling the feeling he had when he dropped 35 points on Maryland in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament …
"There was a point where I felt like almost everything I threw up was about to go in. And for a shooter, that's the best feeling that you can get.
"All the shots you've taken in practice, all the shots you shoot in the gym, you're looking for THAT rhythm. And I caught it that game. That's the thing you try to get back every time you play. That's the feeling you want.”
… on balance between basketball and golf as he was improving in both during high school …
"I was practicing constantly. I would play three, four hours a day and I would play every day. I was practicing, I started to take lessons. I was just taking it very, very seriously.
"And then during the summer, for golf, you've got to play tournaments every weekend. And that was a two- or three-day thing every weekend. So, I wasn't able to focus on both.
"I was still playing high school ball, but golf was my passion at that point.
"But I just kept getting better at basketball, started working on that and saw that I had a lot of potential in that area. I did the AAU thing and it just took off from there.”
… at last year’s Summer League in Salt Lake City, discussing his philosophy on the boards …
"I think I rebounded the ball well the first two games. People are sometimes surprised that I’ve been a good rebounder during my career. I’m not exactly a middle-of-the-paint banger.
"For me, a lot of it is just anticipation and reading the ball off the shooter's hand and anticipating where it's going to go – and then just beating your man to the ball, whether it's getting around him or beating him to the spot.
"A lot of guys, when the shot goes up, they tend to look at the ball first. I'm trying to get around my man right when the shot goes up and then find the ball. So it's a lot of positioning and anticipation.”
… how Indiana colleges allowed him to get out of the state and play ball in Tennessee at Belmont …
"The best answer I can give is just that I was a big golfer in high school, so I really didn't take AAU seriously until my last year.
"After my junior year, I still wanted to try golf, but I started to have a really good basketball season in my junior year, and I wanted to try the AAU thing and see where it would go. I didn't have many offers at that point, so I thought: I'll try it out, get on a team and see where it takes me.
"So I got on a really good team in the Indiana Elite, and I wasn't really playing a whole lot. And some AAU teams, they've been together for, like ten-plus years.
"I was just coming off the bench. And then there was this one tournament where three or four of the top guys got invited to a camp – and I got to start that whole weekend; it was the Adidas May Classic in Indianapolis.
"It was is a big tournament and I wound up killing it, I played really well. And I went from getting my first offer that weekend to like, 15, Division I offers. They were all mid-majors, mostly in the Midwest – and Belmont was one of them. I got recruited only for like two or three months, and it was before the AAU circuit was even over that summer, and I ended up choosing Belmont.
"I took the visit and I just loved it.”
… describing the crowd in Jacksonville for Belmont’s first round thriller against Maryland in the 2019 NCAA Tourney …
"There was a ton of people there, a lot of people came from Belmont all the way down to Florida. So, it was a really good atmosphere.
"And you know how the tournament is: everybody in the arena – even random fans just from Jacksonville – all root for the underdog. So late in that game, it was great.
"You know, you hit a couple of big shots and the crowd just goes crazy. You feel like you're at a home game and you're actually five states away.
"Man, it was so much fun.”
… on how he’d fare on the links against other NBA players …
"I’m not exactly sure how many NBA guys are also pretty serious golfers.
"I think I’d do pretty well against most guys. I know Steph (Curry) plays and he’s really good. J.R. (Smith) plays. I’ve heard he’s good. But I think Steph is really up there among NBA guys.
"I think it’d be really fun to complete against some other NBA guys, if there would ever be a pro-am tournament or something like that.”