By David Boclair
Five turned out to be an alright number for Darius Garland after all.
The Vanderbilt point guard played just five games in college before a knee injury ended his college career. The issue did little — if anything — to diminish his status in the eyes of NBA personnel people.
Thursday, Garland was the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the second-earliest selection ever for a Vanderbilt player. (Clyde Lee went third overall to the San Francisco Warriors in 1966.) In the one-and-done era, which dates back to 2006, only Enes Kanter (third overall, 2011) played fewer college games and was taken among the top 10 picks.
“I’m speechless,” Garland said. “Really excited. Can’t wait to get to Cleveland, start working. It’s the best feeling ever. It’s always been a dream of mine, so I’m really happy.”
Later in the first round, the Cavaliers selected Belmont forward Dylan Windler with the 26th overall pick.
With Garland’s selection, Vanderbilt has had players chosen within the first five picks of the MLB and NBA drafts in a matter of weeks. The Miami Marlins made outfielder JJ Bleday was the fourth pick in the MLB Draft.
Overall, the Brentwood Academy graduate is the eighth Commodores basketball player to be a first-round draft pick and the first since 2016 when Wade Baldwin (17th overall) and Damian Jones were each chosen (30th overall).
With Cleveland, he will play for first-year coach John Beilein, a college head coach for the past 27 years who just made the jump to the pro game. He also joins Colin Sexton, another one-and-done guard who was that franchise’s first pick (eight overall) in 2018.
The Cavaliers played in the NBA Finals four straight years (2015-18) and won the title in 2016 but missed the playoffs last season following LeBron James’ departure. The roster includes notable players such as Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
“I talked to (Beilein) before,” Garland said. “The vision is going to be bright. The two guards we have, Collin, hopefully me coming into this position. There’s a lot of really young talent. I’m really excited to get working.”
In the five games he did play with the Commodores, Garland led the team with 16.2 points per game and earned one SEC Freshman of the Week Award. His 33 points in a victory over Liberty were the second-most ever by a Vanderbilt freshman.
“It’s been a long road,” he said. “But everybody faces adversity. I got over the hump. I’m 100 percent now. That’s in the past. I’m ready to get to Cleveland, start working.”
Photo from Getty Images.