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Jaron Blossomgame's Basketball Odyssey Nearly Ended
Before It Ever Began
If the saying is true that patience is a virtue, then Cavaliers rookie Jaron Blossomgame might be the most virtuous guy on the squad.
No player’s road to the NBA is easy, but for the man with the moniker that was built for basketball, it’s been an uphill climb that’s simultaneously the culmination and the very beginning of his journey.
Whether it was the gruesome AAU injury that nearly ended his hoops career before it could begin or getting released by the Spurs after spending a season in the G League, Blossomgame isn’t easily deterred.
One of the Wine & Gold’s two-way players, Blossomgame has worked his way into the Cavaliers’ rotation – impressing the coaching staff with his off-the-charts athleticism, hard work, hustle and willingness to absorb information.
"He continues to blossom," praised Coach Larry Drew. "He's been good for us. He plays with a lot of energy, he plays hard and he's a live body. You don't have to run plays for him, he just plays within himself. He's a company guy. I know each and every night that I'm going to get that same effort from him. He's starting to really lock in to what we're doing, and I feel really good putting him out there."
Blossomgame was selected by the Spurs with the 59th overall pick of the 2017 Draft after four successful seasons at Clemson – earning All-ACC honors and leading the Tigers to the NIT as a senior.
Playing four years of college hoops was an accomplishment in itself after Blossomgame suffered a horrendous injury, suffering a compound leg fracture going up for a dunk after practice with his AAU team in Atlanta just three months before enrolling at Clemson.
Teammates actually kept a piece of cardboard in front of the injury to keep him from seeing how serious it was.
Years later, Blossomgame has no problem discussing it.
”As an athlete, it's kind of funny -- I'm more athletic now than I was before the injury, which is kind of insane,” quipped the high-flying forward.
”I learned a lot about myself and I think the main thing I learned was patience. The injury process -- I had a compound fracture, the bone came out of my leg. I got surgery on it and about eight months later, I started working out again on the court. But I still had pain doing little things like walking up and down stairs – and my leg felt like it was on fire after a workout. So I didn't know if that would be the new normal for me.”
Blossomgame went back for a second surgery that sidelined him from the game for the next 16 months. He was finally cleared in September before his redshirt freshman year and had just a month to train and prepare for the season.
He did – and he played the rest of his stellar career with Clemson without re-aggravating the injury. But even after leaving campus with flying colors, the battle to reach the NBA wasn’t over. And Blossomgame credits that physical setback for changing his mindset.
”I had to stay patient with myself, and that means the whole process after college,” continued the Atlanta native. “I played the entire year in the G League last year, started off there this year. So, I've had to stay patient, I've learned a lot about patience, and I think that's helped me so far.”
"I know I'm an NBA player, so that really didn't affect me. It was just tough mentally. But like I said, I just put my head down and worked. "
Blossomgame on being released by San Antonio
Blossomgame helped the Austin Spurs win the G League title last year – being named All-NBA G League Third Team in the process. He went to Camp with the Spurs this fall, but was waived on October 8 after three preseason games.
He began this season with Austin – averaging 20.9 points 7.5 boards in ten contests – and, on November 19, was dealt to the Canton Charge in exchange for the rights to John Holland.
On December 5, he played his first game with the Wine & Gold – logging three minutes in a loss to Golden State – and has seen action in every game since, getting three starts along the way.
”When I got released (by San Antonio), I was upset,” said the 6-7, 220-pounder. “I told myself I would give myself a day to think about it and be upset about it. But after that, it was strictly work. I know I'm an NBA player, so that really didn't affect me. It was just tough mentally. But like I said, I just put my head down and worked.
”I played well in my first six games with Austin, got traded over to Canton, played about three games in Canton and got converted. So it all happened unbelievably fast. I was thinking about my last 48 days. I played a game in Austin 48 days ago and now I've started my first NBA game, had my first NBA double-double and my career-high a couple games ago. So, it's just so unbelievable, these last four or five weeks for me.”
Blossomgame’s first double-double game four games into his NBA career – an 11-point, 10-rebound performance in a loss to Milwaukee. Four games later, he tallied 15 points off the bench against Charlotte – going 6-of-7 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from long-range. In Friday night’s loss to the Heat, he led the Wine & Gold with 10 boards in his third career start.
”It's an unbelievable opportunity, especially as a two-way guy -- being able to play 15-20 minutes a game, being able to produce,” beamed Blossomgame as the Cavaliers roll into his hometown for a Saturday showdown with the Hawks. “But right now I'm trying to control things I can control -- my rebounding, my effort, blocking shots. Every night, your shot's not going to fall, so I'm trying to focus on things I can control every night and on things I can bring to the table every night.”
Jaron Blossomgame appreciates every minute he gets in the Association – living a dream that almost ended before it began.
”I didn't expect to play this much or have this great of an opportunity,” concluded the affable high-flyer. “But I started playing pretty well and the wheels kept rolling. Now I’m just trying to just keep building off it.”