Former DePaul men’s basketball forward Cleveland Melvin speaks about D-League experience

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After former DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin was no longer enrolled at DePaul, his future was uncertain.

Melvin was suspended indefinitely Jan. 25 for violation of an unspecified team rule. On Feb. 10, DePaul announced that Melvin would not be returning to the university.

While the details around Melvin’s departure still remain fuzzy, Melvin’s life moved forward. Nearly a month later, Melvin got an opportunity to play professional basketball – being claimed by the Erie BayHawks of the NBA’s Development-League (D-League) March 6.

“I really enjoyed the experience of playing in the D-League,” Melvin said. “The competition was a lot better than what I was facing in college. Guys on my team helped me out as soon as I got there to get me to the next level.”

Melvin hired Bill McCandless and Daniel Curtin as his agents to secure a chance to play in the D-League.

Melvin joined the BayHawks, a New York Knicks-affiliated team, as he replaced guard Chris Smith, the brother of Knicks guard JR Smith. The BayHawks were 13-28 when Melvin joined the team. Melvin appeared in 10 games. He averaged 21 minutes a game, averaging 11.2 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game.

“My expectations were to go in there and prove I could compete at the next level against anybody,” Melvin said. “I’ve always had the heart since I was young. I came in there, trying to work on my game and prove I could compete at the next level.

“I played really well for the time I was there,” he said.

There were plenty of adjustments Melvin had to make. From a personal standpoint, Melvin missed the birth of his first child and was away from his family and former teammates.

On the court, the pace of the D-League is a lot different. Melvin said that the spacing of the game caused for more isolation opportunities and the amount of set plays took time getting used to.

“It was very tough at first,” Melvin said. “When I got to the D-League, it was very difficult. The guys and the coaches, though, were the biggest help … just moving on with my life and starting a new chapter was a frightening time. I just had to get used to it.”

Melvin found his way. In his professional debut against Fort Wayne, Melvin scored 10 points in 12 minutes of action. That performance led to an increase in minutes.

Three games later, Melvin would have the best performance of his D-League stint. He logged 35 minutes off the bench and had a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a losing performance against Maine. He also had four assists.

It would solidify Melvin’s new role on the team as the sixth man, coming off the bench to provide useful minutes and energy.

“I thought I could play at the next level just based off that game,” Melvin said. “I played my role. I rebounded, ran the floor, scored in transition and shot the ball outside. I did it all against some good competition.” 

The BayHawks went 3-7 with Melvin on the team. Now with his stint in the D-League over, Melvin will shift his eyes towards the NBA draft. The 6-foot- 8 forward isn’t sure if he’ll get drafted. Sites like DraftExpress.com and ESPN’s Chad Ford don’t have him being selected. It doesn’t help that this upcoming draft class is the best it has been in a decade.

Before the 2013-2014 season, DraftExpress’ Matt Kamalsky told The DePaulia that Melvin would have to improve on his ability to play as a stretchfour, a power-forward who can spread the floor and shoot from the outside, to be drafted. Melvin played more of this role with the Blue Demons this season and with the BayHawks.

Melvin said he has to improve his ball-handling skills and his consistency with his shot. He also mentioned that he has to be more aggressive to play in the NBA.

“I’m just ready to entertain anything, stay focused and improve on my game,” Melvin said. “I definitely feel like I’m more comfortable now (due to the D-League). It’s a different experience than college.”