Facing Challenges Throughout His Career, Jaron Blossomgame Has Found NBA Home In Cleveland

Jan 02, 2019 | by Evan Dammarell, Forbes.com

As 2018 came to a close for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a very exciting NBA career is just beginning for Cavaliers forward Jaron Blossomgame. On December 29, the Cavaliers faced the Atlanta Hawks, Blossomgame's hometown team. The Cavaliers lost 111-108 and Blossomgame finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. But, Blossomgame would not trade this moment for anything else in the world:

"The game against the Hawks was really exciting for me because it is the first time most of my friends and family could see me in person playing in an NBA uniform. They are just as excited as I am so I really looked forward to it."

But to reach this point, Blossomgame had to grind every step of the way.

Throughout his basketball career, Blossomgame has always had to battle through adversity. In the spring of his senior year of high school, he suffered a compound fracture in his left leg, forcing him to redshirt his freshman season at Clemson University. In June of 2013, Blossomgame had to have a second surgery on the same leg, causing him to be brought along slowly his sophomore season. Blossomgame expressed that the leg injury was tough, but the mental impact and being away from the court was just as difficult.

When his junior season came along, Blossomgame enjoyed a breakout season. He averaged 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds and was named to First-Team All-ACC and was named the conference's Most Improved Player. His stellar play earned him an invite the NBA Draft Combine but ultimately decided to return to Clemson for his senior year. Blossomgame then followed up his breakout year with a great senior campaign, averaging 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds while earning Third-Team All-ACC honors and led the Tigers to the 2017 National Invitational Tournament.

When his collegiate career came to a close, Blossomgame was looking to fulfill his life-long dream of playing in the NBA. But, much the rest of his career, Blossomgame had to again battle through more hardship when he reached the next level.

Selected 59th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2017 NBA Draft, Blossomgame seemed like a longshot to make in the NBA. He soon found himself with the Austin Spurs, San Antonio's G League affiliate, where he relied on his resolve to succeed. Blossomgame did exactly that, averaging 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds for Austin, earning All-NBA G League Third-Team honors and helping the Spurs win the 2018 G League Championship. The following season, Blossomgame was traded to the Canton Charge for the rights to John Holland and a 2019 second-round draft pick.

After arriving in Canton, Blossomgame finally had the chance to take the next step to fulfill his life-long dream.

Ten games into his time with the Charge, Blossomgame shared that he got a call he never expected from his agent. The Cavaliers were impressed by Blossomgame's tenacity on the defensive side of the ball, along with what intangibles he brought to the table and wanted to sign him to a two-way contract.

From the moment he signed with Cleveland, Blossomgame had 45 days to impress the organization enough to sign him to a long-term deal. Like every stop in life, Blossomgame seized the opportunity instead of backing down. Through thirteen games with the Cavaliers, Blossomgame has posted averages of 4.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and a PER of 10.30. He has also notched his first NBA-career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds against the Milwaukee Bucks and scored a career-high 15 points against the Charlotte Hornets. Blossomgame has also showcased plenty of his penchant for defense as well, having to spend some nights defending MVP candidates like Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Blossomgame has embraced the Cavaliers with his 6'10" wingspan and the team has returned the love. He has shared that he gets along with everyone on Cleveland's roster but is closest with Cavaliers veteran Channing Frye. Frye has taken Blossomgame under his wing and has tried to help set up him for success. In the game against the Hornets where Blossomgame scored his career-high, Frye played a part in that. Blossomgame said that Frye pulled him aside and gave him a few quick pointers on how to improve his shot mechanics. Whatever Frye shared worked as Blossomgame connected on 3 of his 4 three-point attempts that night, which is also a career-best.

Frye had glowing remarks about both Blossomgame and his work ethic:

"He's a great kid and has a bright future with his work ethic, team-first attitude and natural God-given ability. He should be in this league for a while."

The Cleveland coaching staff expresses similar sentiments as Frye. After their win over the Hornets, where Blossomgame put up the best numbers of his career, Cavaliers head coach Larry Drew had this to say about the young wing:

"He continues to blossom. He's been good for us. He plays with a lot of energy. He plays hard. He's a live body. You don't have to run plays for him, he just plays within himself. He's a company guy. I know each and every night that I'm going to get that same effort from him. He's starting to really lock in to what we're doing and I feel really good putting him out there."

Blossomgame has worked incredibly hard to get this point in his NBA career and clearly, he will not settle. The Cavaliers have found a diamond in the rough in Blossomgame, as he possesses all of the physical attributes and intangibles that make him the ideal modern NBA wing. 31 days into his 45 possible with the Cavaliers, Blossomgame has done more than enough to prove his worth for the team to commit to him long-term and for Cleveland to be his permanent NBA home.

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