Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEWARK, N.J. — Tristan Thompson said Wednesday he was looking forward to dunking on Kyrie Irving in the NBA.
Now that the two are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thompson will only get to dunk on Irving during practice.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Irving, the former St. Patrick and Duke star who was taken No. 1 overall by the Cavs, said of playing with the 6-9 Thompson, selected minutes later at No. 4.
“Tristan is a great friend of mine, and just having another fellow freshman being drafted to Cleveland, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Just two and a half years ago, Irving put up 21 points when St. Patrick crushed Thompson and St. Benedict’s at Rutgers in a battle of two of the Garden State’s — and the nation’s — premier teams.
“It’s like we are reunited and Kyrie being from St. Pat’s, it’s a little Jersey rivalry so I’m happy,” said Thompson, the Texas freshman who is the first Canadian-born player selected since 1985.
He added: “Knowing that myself and Kyrie have a friendship prior to the draft, he’s almost like a brother to me so we’ll get this thing together.”
Thompson won’t dunk on Irving, but may be the recipient of some Irving passes he can turn into dunks on other players.
“Kyrie’s pushing the ball and I’m going to try to keep up with him,” Thompson said.
Cleveland, which lost 26 straight games at one stretch last season, will now have three players who competed at Jersey powerhouses since they already have power forward Samardo Samuels, who played with Thompson at St. Benedict’s during Thompson’s sophomore season.
“Samardo is like an older brother and a mentor to me,” Thompson said. “He’s went through many workouts just a year ago, so he just told me, do what you do well and everything will fall into place.”
Together, the former Jersey prep players must work to try to make Cleveland forget about the man who took his talents to South Beach.
“I’m really not looking to replace LeBron honestly,” Irving said, “just try to be Kyrie Irving and just contribute to the Cleveland organization as much as I can.”
Despite all the draft-day excitement, both players’ dreams could be put on hold with an NBA lockout looming July 1.
“I know that there are negotiations,” Irving said of the labor dispute. “And after July 1 that’s when I’ll really start worrying about what I’m going to do.
Irving could end up right back on the Duke campus — as a student, not a basketball player.
“I’ll be back down at Duke taking a couple classes and if the work stoppage continues after a certain date then I’ll be basically a regular student enrolled there again,” Irving said.
Asked what classes he might take, Irving added: “I might just broaden my horizons, just kind of go out there a little bit on the limb, try a couple different classes. But I’m open for anything.”
When the lockout does end, though, he could be right back playing with Thompson.
“Having somebody alongside you that will go through the rookie ups and downs with you,” Irving said, “it will make the transition into the NBA that much easier.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.