A year ago, at about this time, nobody would have predicted former Syracuse guard Dion Waiters as a 2012 NBA Draft lottery pick. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound prospect was coming off a frustrating freshman season which ended with he and legendary head coach Jim Boeheim pitted against each other.
Boeheim, the headman at SU for 36 seasons, was basically at his the end of his rope with the cocky, yet, undecorated 19-year-old and -- as the story goes -- basically gave the youngster a choice: change your ways or transfer, I don't care either way.
Waiters, a product of the entitlement generation, first thought about taking the second option -- to move on and find a coach that wasn't such a headache. However, after talking with his mother -- who basically told her talented son she didn't raise a quitter -- Waiters stayed, took responsibility for his immature actions and found a fire to prove his doubters wrong.
The result was a brand-new motto, "humble and hungry", which forced Boeheim to play his "sixth-best player" for 24.1 minutes per game and eventually admit the best player during his most successful regular season in program history was, indeed, Waiters.
When ask about whether or not the sophomore was ready for professional basketball, almost a year after asking the same player to change or leave, the outspoken Boeheim replied, "He's more ready for the NBA than any other guard I've ever had."
Dion Waiters Scouting Video - NBA Draft Insider (via nbadraftinsider)
The highlights speak for themselves. Waiters' potential is seemingly limitless, as he had probably the quickest first step in all of college basketball last season, a solid jump-shot, which showcased a NBA-level step-back jumper, and the fire and confidence of somebody who knows they can be better than everybody else.
Waiters' Syracuse career didn't end with an NCAA Championship or a trip to the Final Four -- the Orange were knocked out in the Elite 8 by the Ohio State Buckeyes -- but it ended well enough that it was very clear the Philadelphia native wasn't coming back to the 'Cuse for another season.
In the end, Waiters will be remembered for his thunderous fast-break dunks, transition spin moves (shown below) and a cockiness, humbled by confidence, not seen since Carmelo Anthony.
Dion Waiters (via srhatch)
There seems to be no limits of where Waiters' offensive game can go, but his NBA career will be determined by his ability to play point guard -- he doesn't move very well without the ball -- and improve his jump shot.
Regardless of Waiters' future as a pro, nobody would have thought he'd be here so fast. Well, everyone besides Dion Waiters.
What They Are Saying
"In one of the ever-so-famous Draft Day dramas, it appears that Waiters is the most highly touted player in the Draft to receive a promise. He shut down all workouts and did not even interview with teams at the NBA Draft Combine in early June in Chicago. Since then, mum’s been the word on Waiters," -- Rodger Bohn of SLAM Magazine.
What They Are Projecting (Mock Drafts):
SB Nation's Tom Ziller: No. 13 to Phoenix Suns.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford: No. 8 to Toronto Raptors
NBADraft.net: No. 8 to Raptors.
CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman: No. 7 to Golden State Warriors.
CBSSports.com's Matt Moore: No. 7 to Warriors.
DraftExpress.com: No. 7 to Warriors.
If Waiters goes in the NBA Draft Lottery, he will become the third Syracuse player to go in the top 14 since Carmelo Anthony in '03.
What We Think:
Waiters was a very pleasant surprise during the 2011-12 season, and I think the trend will continue during his professional career. What will separate Waiters from other draft prospects such as Perry Jones III or Jeremy Lamb is his tenacity and fire.
If given one more year at Syracuse, Waiters could have vaulted himself into the top 3, as he could have been the best guard prospect in the '13 Draft. However, since Waiters was never given a chance to start and be "the man" at Syracuse it hurt his pre-draft stock a bit.
Now, NBA scouts and front office brass are seeing what Orange fans saw all season long -- a potential NBA All-Star.
With that said, the last two SU players to go in the Draft Lottery -- Wesley Johnson (No. 4 to Minnesota in '10) and Jonny Flynn (No. 6 to Minnesota in '09) -- haven't lived up to their selection status. And if history of the lottery has provide anything, it's that no player is a sure thing.
But if we were forced to bet on a player to break the recent disappointing trend of Syracuse professional players, we're not betting against Dion Waiters.
For more on Syracuse basketball draft prospects, make sure to check back to this SB Nation New York StoryStream or the SB Nation blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. Meanwhile, for everything on the Knicks visit Posting And Toasting.