Spotlight On: Syracuse’s Dion WaitersPosted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2011
Danny Connors is an RTC editor and contributor.
As a freshman, Dion Waiters was in Jim Boeheim’s doghouse and for good reason. Waiters turned the ball over, took ill-advised shots, was out-of-shape and performed dreadfully on the defensive end of the court. He routinely butted heads with Boeheim. After his freshman campaign, Waiters reportedly considered transferring away from Syracuse. It was a particularly bumpy first year upstate for the tough Philly guard.
This year, however, Waiters has revitalized his body, game and attitude. After two games, he has been a figure of efficiency. He is averaging 15.5 PPG while shooting 60% from the floor. His assists are up and his turnover numbers are down. Decision-making seems to be less of an issue for Waiters. Despite coming off the bench, he has played starter minutes and was Syracuse’s leading scorer against Manhattan Monday night. Nonetheless, it’s not his offense that has convinced Boeheim to keep him in games. “The reason he stays in is because of his defense,” Boeheim said after the win. Last season, Boeheim added, Waiters had to be “taken out fairly quickly because he couldn’t defend.”
Waiters has been able to maintain more defensive intensity in part because of his slighter weight. He cited a strict diet and a lot of water as the keys to his weight loss. Interestingly enough, Waiters said his weight last season caused a variety of knee problems. With that in mind, he dedicated himself to the gym this offseason more than ever before. The results, at this point, point to the hard work paying off. The sophomore guard has also straightened his attitude and smoothed out his relationship with Boeheim. Waiters said this year has been “better for the both of us.” He has realized that when you “listen, he [Boeheim] will reward you.” The transition to the college game may not have been easy, but Waiters’ new understanding and perspective should prove to be helpful for the remainder of his Syracuse career. Waiters appreciates the opportunity to play under Boeheim and learn from him. He explained, “you get to mature and you get to learn new things everyday.”
Boeheim has also seen a change in attitude from Waiters. In reference to Waiters staying positive despite being subbed out of the game, Boeheim said, “last year he would have been pouting on the bench.” Even with the changes made this off-season, Waiters still has a calling card on the court. He has an uncanny ability to put points on the scoreboard in a hurry. One NBA scout even called him “The Microwave” because he heats up off the bench so quickly. Although the season is young, Waiters has stood out as an early breakout performer. After a rocky first season, it’s almost hard to believe. However, his dedication and hard work have spearheaded his transformation on the court and in regards to his attitude and weight loss. “I always knew I had it in me,” Waiters said.
Luckily for Syracuse, he’s now ready to show it.