Former Cleveland All-Star center tutors younger big men


zydrunas-ilgauskasAnyone associated with the Cavaliers will tell you that Zydrunas Ilgauskas, beloved alum and fan favorite, is more than just a guy who works with the current big men on occasion.

Ilgauskas’ official title with the Cavaliers is special assistant to general manager. He travels to scout college players.

He evaluates talent in the league. He helps General Manager Chris Grant plot and plan and construct the roster.

But he’s also 7-3, has two All-Star appearances and 13 seasons (12 of those with the Cavs) of experience under his belt.

Ilgauskas played in 843 NBA games (724 started) holding career averages of 13.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.6 bpg in 27.2 minutes of action.

When Ilgauskas gives Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, the Cavaliers’ two young big men, advice on how to execute and finish, you had better believe they listen.

So while Thompson and Zeller have credited both Ilgauskas and assistant coach Jamahl Mosley — who has worked, at length, with Thompson in particular — with improvements in recent weeks, ears perk up at the mention of Ilgauskas.

“You can’t teach 7-3,” Zeller said. “He’s still got quick hands. And he’s just got the height. He jumps about this high [fingers held 1 inch apart], but somehow, he still blocks shots.”

In recent weeks, Thompson and Zeller have learned from Ilgauskas some valuable tips on how to finish around the basket.

But even more beneficial might be that both young, big men have had the opportunity to try to score on Ilgauskas as they learn.

“It’s a little different when you’ve got somebody 7-3, with his wingspan, guarding you,” said Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. “You have to learn how to get it [the shot] up quicker. You have to learn how to be able to maneuver around a guy like that.”

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