Cleveland Cavaliers rookie point guard Collin Sexton scored 15 points in his preseason debut, a 105-97 win over the title-contending Boston Celtics. In a constant attack, and often matching up against Celtics breakout player Terry Rozier or defensive standout Marcus Smart, he pressed the issue, getting to the rim and letting jumpers fly when defenders gave him space.
With the confidence he played with, you would never believe he had never played against a bonafide squad of NBA players before.
Sexton’s mental preparation is advanced for his age and experience, a time when young players often find themselves being apprehensive and starstruck. No solitary quote may prove that more than the one he gave when asked if he was nervous prior to taking the floor at TD Garden.
Quote transcribed by NBA.com:
“No I was ready to get out there and get the first one under my belt just because we were getting tired of playing each other in practice. I try to just stay level-headed and go into the game with a clear mind and not worry about anything.”
To some, it was odd that on draft night Sexton’s intangibles were lauded before his on-court skill but as the great Yogi Berra once said, the game “is ninety percent mental; the other half is physical.”
The math is off on this one but the point is clear.
The mental work that it requires to achieve greatness is more important than many realize. It may be even more important than the physical traits.
For contemporary examples, look at a player like Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrew Wiggins, who has the talent and physical tools to be an All-Star but seems to lack the work ethic and passion to reach his potential. Providing an excellent foil for Wiggins is Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, a player who is a relatively average athlete but puts in the necessary work to maximize his skillset and be the best absolute best player he can be.
When you can combine physical prowess with elite intangibles, that’s when players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James emerge.
That’s not to say that Sexton will be the next Cav that plays and produces like he should belong in the pantheon of all-time greats. It’s simply to say Sexton gives himself a chance to be an All-Star, or more, because of the combination of his intangible and tangible skills.
Be sure there’s going to be lumps as Sexton learns how to be a floor general. He’s an intelligent player who gets better at reading opposing defenses as games progress but point guards traditionally have one of the steepest learning curves when making the jump from the college to the pro level.
Nonetheless, he’s relentless both on and off the floor. As he continues to work on his weaknesses, he can be a dynamic force in the Cleveland backcourt for years to come.