For most NBA players, the journey to the big time includes at least a year at a Division I college. Some stay on campus 2-4 years, while others have skipped the whole college game and entered the association straight out of high school. Players also come from smaller colleges and from other countries, but the formula of “high school to college to the pros” is the most common. For one former DePaul star hoping to make the NBA, however, his path is… shall we say… different.
Already filled with twists and turns, Cleveland Melvin is still optimistic that he will don that NBA uniform one day. Talking to him you can see he truly believes this. He vows to keep getting better until that day comes. So far, since his unceremonious departure from DePaul, he appears to be doing everything in his power to meet his lofty goal.
Melvin was a star with the Blue Demons from 2010 until 2014. He is one of the all-time leaders in scoring, blocks and rebounds for the storied program. But in January, Melvin was suspended for an unspecified team violation. The next month, the university announced that Melvin would not be returning.
“It was just personal,” Melvin told Breitbart Sports. “I’ve put that aside and moved on with my life. Everybody makes mistakes. I made a mistake. I’ve moved on. I’m focusing on going after my dream.”
Weeks after leaving Chicago and heading home to Maryland, Melvin signed on with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League. The idea was to showcase his talents in front of scouts in hopes of getting a chance with one of the big clubs. “The D-League was a great opportunity for me moving forward,” Melvin said. “I had the chance to play with guys who played in the NBA. I know even more about what it takes.”
Despite playing well for Erie, the NBA Draft came and went in June and Melvin was not selected. He didn’t hang his head though. He certainly didn’t give up. Instead, it seems Melvin’s fire is burning more than ever. “It was hard for me at first to not get drafted but now it’s motivation,” Melvin said. “I’m at the gym all summer and staying in shape. Now I have a contract and I’m going to make the most of it.”
“That contract is taking the 6-8 forward to Europe. Melvin has signed to play for the Alba Fehervar in Hungary. Coached by Romanian Tenter Marcel, the team is part of the National Championship I/A League. Not the Bulls. Not the Lakers. But a place for Melvin to show people he’s got game and is willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top.
“This is another step to reaching my dream of playing in the NBA,” said Melvin. “If I do well in Hungary, I will have more chance back in the U.S.” Other than faith in his abilities, Melvin is heading to a strange land with little else. ““This is the first time I’m hearing about this league,” he said. “I’m going alone right now but I’m going to try to get some of my family out there as soon as possible.”
Part of Melvin’s family is his little boy, who factored greatly into the decision to head overseas. “I have a son to provide for,” Melvin said. “The more opportunities I have to establish myself and put money in my pocket…I have to take them.”
Other than missing his family the only other concern Melvin has at this point is adjusting to a different country. “the pictures I’ve seen of Hungary are beautiful,” said Melvin. “I’ve heard great things.” Yet, he hasn’t heard just yet if his coach speaks English or if the team has any type of interpreter. “I hope they have one, I hope so because it’ll be even tougher if not,” Melvin laughed. “But I’m looking forward to all challenges and taking care of business.”
Right now there is one other American on the Alba Fehervar. Lasan Kromah played for George Washington and Connecticut before heading to Hungary.
Melvin still has fond memories of his time at DePaul. While he hasn’t spoken to any Demons coaches or athletic staff in awhile he has heard from his old teammates. “They congratulated me on the Hungary deal and wished me well,” Melvin said. “We are like brothers and always will be.”
Whatever the relationship, Melvin’s DePaul career is in the rear view for now and he is ready to embark on an adventure in a place he never imagined he’d ever visit let alone live. He fittingly leaves on Labor Day, ready to do work.
As Melvin takes his game to Hungary he has a message for the NBA as to why they should keep a close eye on how he performs for his new squad. “I’m very competitive, I have a good attitude, I want to win, and I have a good heart,” Melvin said. “I am going to give it my all and do whatever my coach wants. I’ve been that way since I’ve started playing basketball. My goal remains a career in the NBA.”
If drive and the willingness to do whatever it takes count for anything, Melvin should not be counted out. He heads to Hungary supremely confident that he will eventually return to reach his ultimate goal. At this point, he just has to focus on the here and now. “I’m praying the food is good,” Melvin said. If not, just seek out the nearest Székesfehérvári McDonald’s.
If cuisine is Melvin’s biggest worry, we may very well see him in the NBA before too long.
Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @KevinScholla