Garrett Fulfills Dream, Earns NBA Roster Spot
Welcome to the NBA, D.G.
"The first time I found out I made it, it wasn't really official," Garrett said. "I basically found out on twitter. One night I just woke up and I got about 30 messages congratulating me on making the roster. The next day at practice, all the guys were congratulating me on making the team and all of that stuff."
Finding out the news on twitter was fine, but hearing it from the front office was even better.
"When the coaches and the general manager finally told me, it felt really good," Garrett added. "It hasn't really hit me yet, but I feel really good that hard work does pay off."
Garrett, who ranks second all-time in career assists at Iowa State with 611 dimes, will follow in his father's footsteps, Dick, as an NBA player. Dick played five seasons in the NBA (1969-74) for the Los Angeles Lakers, Buffalo Braves and New York Knicks.
His father played a big part in his preparation for this moment.
"He's helped me every day and he always keeps me level-headed, humble and makes sure that I'm always grinding," Garrett said. "No matter who it is, you have to go out there and earn respect. It doesn't matter who is out there, you have to hold your own. I think his words always motivated me to do that."
A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Garrett was one of the most improved players in the country in his final season with the Cyclones in 2010-11. Garrett flourished in head coach Fred Hoiberg's system, earning All-Big 12 Second-Team honors while leading the Big 12 Conference in assists at 6.1 apg.
Garrett, who is one of only three Big 12 players to amass over 1,300 points and 600 assists in a career, went undrafted following his senior season. Undeterred, Garrett opted to go overseas and played a season for JSF Nanterre in France last year.
Garrett posted solid numbers for JSF Nanterre and gained a valuable year of experience with the club.
"I think it helped me a whole lot," Garrett said. "The first team I played for was in Croatia and then my agent suggested I go to France and play in a pro league over there. I felt like I did pretty well as a rookie and learned a lot from the guys. It helped me a lot with this process and to get where I'm at now."
Garrett and his family had an important decision to make following his first year in professional basketball. Should he go back to Europe where he would be guaranteed a spot and financial security? Or should he take a shot at the NBA where there was zero certainty he would even have a team to play for if cut?
Garrett rolled the dice and declined a return stint in Europe. He wanted to play in the Association.
The Suns had shown interest in Garrett from the beginning, inviting him to tryouts following his senior season at Iowa State. He then played on the Suns' NBA Summer League team this year.
The gamble paid off. The Suns liked what they saw in Summer League and asked Garrett to join the team in preseason training camp. He continued to impress the front office. His length at point guard (6-5), tremendous work ethic and infectious positive energy no doubt played a huge role in making the team.
"The Suns had stayed in touch with me and I came out here for a few workouts and played in the Summer League," Garrett said. "They called me back for training camp and I just sat down with mom and dad, thought about it myself, and decided I'm just going to go for it."
Garrett and former Iowa State All-American Royce White, who was the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, join a select group of 20 Cyclones who have made an NBA regular-season roster.
Hoiberg, who is entering his third season as head coach at Iowa State, is one of the 20 Cyclones in the exclusive NBA club. He saw talent in Garrett on the first day he took over the reins of the Iowa State program.
"I watched Diante play a lot before I took the job and I knew right away he had incredible talent as a point guard," Hoiberg said. "He has great basketball skills, but most importantly, he is an extremely hard worker who is very coachable. We are so proud of D.G. and we look forward to watching him play this year."
Garrett will have a strong Cyclone support system in The Valley of the Sun. The Suns Vice President of Basketball Communications, Julie Fie, is an Iowa State graduate, and so are Head Athletic Trainer, Aaron Nelson and Assistant Athletic Trainer, Tom Maystadt.
Fie's father, Larry, was a standout on the Iowa State men's basketball team from 1958-60. Larry helped the Cyclones win the 1959 Big Eight Holiday Tournament Championship, earning all-tournament honors.
Nelson also has a unique lineage in Cyclone basketball. His brother-in-law is Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek is regarded as one of the greatest players in Iowa State history and later became an NBA All-Star as a member of the Suns. Garrett's 611 assists is second to Hornacek's 665 on Iowa State's all-time assist chart.
"It's amazing. Every time I come in I have one of them say, 'Cyclones Baby!'" Garrett laughed. "They always talk about our basketball team and Cyclone football. They talk about it all the time. We have watched Cyclone football games in the training room, and there was even an Austen Arnaud jersey hung up in the training room for awhile. They're always talking about Coach Fred and the team. They love the Cyclones and every time they see me it's always 'Cyclone Love.'"
Garrett will also reunite with his former Iowa State teammate Wesley Johnson, who played two seasons with the Cyclones before transferring to Syracuse. The Suns opener will be on Wednesday vs. Golden State in Phoenix. He will see a familiar face on the other side in Warrior rookie Harrison Barnes, an Ames native who played countless pick-up games vs. Garrett while living in Ames.
Garrett now begins his job of helping Phoenix during its 82-game season grind. The Suns picked up fourth-year point guard Goran Dragic from Houston in the offseason. He will back up Dragic, Kendall Marshall and Sebastian Telfair at the point guard spot and he can't wait to begin the journey.
"It feels really good to come in here and get a chance to play against the best basketball players in the world," Garrett said. "It's my job to make our team better and learn from these guys. I've got a player development coach that works with me and we do NBA workouts all the time. I'm just going to keep doing anything I can so I can hopefully have a long career in the NBA."