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Q&A: Gary native, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland gives back for Thanksgiving
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Q & A

Q&A: Gary native, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland gives back for Thanksgiving

Darius Garland -- Cleveland Cavaliers (Thanksgiving)

Gary native and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland recently paid for the Thanksgiving groceries of six families.

As Gary native Darius Garland gears up for his sophomore season in the NBA, he has still found a way to give back. The former Vanderbilt star and Cleveland Cavaliers guard covered the cost of Thanksgiving groceries for six families in three cities Saturday.

Garland and his older brother, Desmond Nunnery, took care of two families in Cleveland. His parents coordinated which two families were selected in Nashville. And Garland's aunts chose two families in Gary.

Times sports reporter James Boyd caught up with Garland, who averaged 12.3 points per game as a rookie, to reflect on his generosity as well as his preparation for the 2020-21 NBA season, which is tentatively scheduled to begin Dec. 22.

Q: Why did you feel inclined to give back to these families in this way? And specifically the two families in the Region?

A: With the whole pandemic going on, I know that a lot of families are struggling right now, so I just wanted to give back and show my support and show that I'm still there in (Gary) even though I'm not there. I was just really in a giving mood.

Q: I know this is your first time doing something like this for Thanksgiving, but last year you gave back around Christmas by buying gifts for two families in Gary. Do you plan on doing something similar this year for Christmas?

A: With the season going on, that will be pretty tough to do, but I'm going to try to do something for Christmas for sure.

Q: What is it about this time of year that makes you want to give back? It seems like you enjoy being able share your success with others.

A: I really do like showing that I really care about the city that I come from and the places where I've lived, so I'd like to give back to the people who really mean a lot me, especially the people in Gary, Nashville and now Cleveland. It's just cool to see people happy and to see the smiles on their faces around these times.

Q: Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for so many people. Has it given you more appreciation for your own family and livelihood?

A: For sure, because during the shutdown you really couldn't do anything. Just being back around my family and seeing the smiles on their faces has meant a lot to me. Even with basketball, there was no (Cleveland Cavaliers) basketball for nine months! So, just being back in the gym and seeing everybody has been cool.

Q: Where were you when the NBA season was suspended March 11? And what was your initial reaction?

A: We had just come back from Chicago because we had an away game there, so we had just landed in Cleveland. (Oklahoma City) was about to play Utah, and they ended up canceling the game. I was with some of my teammates, and we were all like, 'What's going on? What's about to happen?' Everyone was just so surprised, and a lot of people were just frustrated because we couldn't play basketball anymore. I really felt that because it was my rookie year, and I couldn't finish out 82 games.

Q: In the time since then, what have you been up to? And how often have you been able to get in the gym?

A: Since March, I haven't taken a day off, really. We've been working nonstop over here. Getting in the gym every day, lifting every day. We've been out in LA with (NBA trainer) Chris Johnson, in Nashville with my trainer Jamal (Richardson) and we even came back home for a bit and got in the gym. Everywhere we've been, we've always been in the gym. Just working and looking forward to next year.

Q: Overall, how would describe your first year in the league?

A: My first year was good. It had its ups and downs, and throughout the entire year I was just focused on myself and my teammates and trying to win games. But now it's on to year 2, and all I'm trying to do is get better as a player. I want to get as many wins as I can with my teammates and hopefully make a playoff run.

Q: Is there a moment that sticks out to you from your rookie year? Maybe a player you faced that you once looked up to?

A: Derrick Rose — that's when it really hit me that I was in the NBA. Being from the Region, I used to go to all of the Bulls games and watch his games all of the time, so playing against him was crazy. I used to have his jersey and everything. It was like a dream come true, for real, because he's like the hometown hero.

Q: I know another Gary native, Eugene German, is grinding for an NBA spot right now and trying to break into the league. You told me you played against him growing up, so what do you think Geno could bring to an NBA franchise that's willing to give him a chance?

A: I mean, you already know he's a bucket. He's gonna get you a bucket regardless, and he's gonna play hard on both ends of the floor. He's a smart player, and he led his (Northern Illinois) team to a lot of wins. He's their all-time leading scorer, and he can score really efficiently and at a high level. I think that would be a lot of good things to bring to a team as a scoring option.

Q: What do you think about the brotherhood of current NBA players from the Region? Guys like you, E'Twaun Moore and Glenn Robinson III.

A: It means a lot to be a part of it. It just shows the younger people in the Region that you can do anything. We made it out, so if you put your mind to it, you can make it out, too. It doesn't matter what you want to do. And then for me, it's just cool having those big brothers in the league. We're always talking about the Region and what we can do for the people back home.

Q: Although you're only 20, you have a lot of kids who look up to you, and they're dreaming the same dream that you once had of being a professional athlete. What's your advice to them as they continue to chase what some people may think is impossible?

A: Just keep dreaming. You can do anything you put your mind to, and I'll always believe that. My parents always told me that at a young age, so just put your mind to it and put the work in and believe in yourself.

Gallery: 50 famous Region athletes

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.

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