When the NBA announced the list of reserves for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game on Thursday night, former Brentwood Academy and Vanderbilt standout Darius Garland was among the selections made by the league’s coaches.
The 71st edition of the game will take place in Cleveland, and Garland will be the hometown Cavaliers’ lone participant in the festivities. His high-level play has been somewhat of a surprise this season, and it has coincided with the Cavaliers' rapid ascent up the Eastern Conference standings.
Following a lauded career at Brentwood Academy, Garland became the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team. But his tenure as a Commodore was cut short; he only played in five games, totaling 139 minutes of action, after tearing his meniscus.
Despite the injury-disrupted lone season with Vanderbilt, Garland was still selected fifth overall in the 2019 NBA draft. His time at Vanderbilt was brief, but he was able to showcase a skillset that mirrored that of where the league was headed.
Garland’s rookie season with the Cavaliers was halted due to the COVID pandemic. He was on one of the teams that were not invited to the NBA’s bubble environment, which meant they went nine months without playing an actual game.
His game improved in his sophomore campaign, but it was this season that it truly began to blossom. Fellow backcourt mates Collin Sexton (a torn meniscus) and Ricky Rubio (a torn ACL) both went down with season-ending injuries, leaving much of the playmaking and offensive creation to Garland.
He has answered the call, raising his scoring average to a career-high 19.8 points per game and upped his assists to a personal-best 8.2 per game, good enough for seventh in the NBA. He’s also averaging 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 36.9 percent from 3-point range, and 90.7 percent from the free throw line.
The Cavaliers, who have not made the playoffs or had a winning record since superstar LeBron James left in 2018, are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, sitting just two games out of the top spot, with a record of 31-21. A group of young upstarts, led by Garland and big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are on track to clinch the franchise’s first playoff appearance without James since 1998.
Former Belmont standout Dylan Windler plays off the bench for Cleveland.
Garland is not a stranger to high-stakes basketball. While at Brentwood Academy, he led the Eagles to four consecutive Division II-AA State Championships and won three Mr. Basketball awards. Only fellow Brentwood Academy legend Brandan Wright, an 11-year NBA veteran, has won three Tennessee Mr. Basketball awards.
During his senior year, Garland averaged 27.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.7 steals en route to receiving invites to the 2019 McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic, and the Nike Hoop Summit.
The 2022 NBA All-Star Game will take place on Feb. 20.