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For Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, it all started with the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend.
That’s the game featuring the NBA’s best first- and second-year players. Sexton was a rookie. He wasn’t invited.
After that, his own rise from a somewhat clunky start was fast and furious. A month after the Rising Stars game, Sexton hit the record books — becoming the first Cavs rookie to score 23 or more points in seven straight games. The last time it happened in the entire league before Sexton? Try Tim Duncan of San Antonio Spurs fame in 1997-98.
How’s that for a rising star?
Now, Sexton is entering year with the Cavs. Other than Kevin Love, he is viewed as the team’s biggest offensive threat. He is viewed as someone with upside.
Sexton admitted that being ignored at the All-Star even helped motivate him.
“You always need something that’s gonna wake you up a little bit and be like, ‘Yeah OK. Now I’ve got to improve,'” Sexton told Sirius XM NBA Radio. “When I didn’t make the Rising Stars game, I was like, ‘Alright, it’s time to show people what you can do.'”
Sexton averaged 22.8 points and shot 51 percent from the field in 15 games in March. He also knocked down 45 percent of his 3-pointers in that stretch, averaging about four attempted threes per game.
For the season, Sexton averaged 16.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, appearing in all 82 games.
These reasons and more are why it took new coach John Beilein about three days of training camp to fall in love with Sexton.
“His desire to be coached is incredible,” Beilein said. “You want good students at this time. And he’s worked really hard at being a good student. He’s paying attention and staying focused.”
The admiration appears to be mutual.
“He starts with the basics and works his way up,” Sexton said of Beilein. “He likes getting out, pushing the ball and playing fast. And I feel like I’m really good in getting downhill. His style plays to my strengths.”
Sexton is well aware he could be sharing point guard duties with Cavs lottery pick Darius Garland. Sexton is listed at 6-foot 3; Garland is 6-2. That makes them vastly undersized in the world of NBA backcourts.
But Sexton has prepared by watching film of other teams in similar situations.
“We’ve watched Damian Lillard and C.J. MCollum (of the Portland Trail Blazers) and Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet (of Toronto) together as well,” Sexton said. “They jelled really well last season. So we’re going to see how it goes with us.”
Mostly, Sexton feels he is better suited to run an offense and lead a team. Some of it is improved skills. But Sexton will tell you perhaps even more has to do with determination.
And it all started with a slight at the Rising Stars game.
“I know my capabilities,” he said. “I know how strong I am as a person. People can say a lot of things, but they can’t take what’s inside of you, and that’s heart.”