Will Cherry showed up at the office a little early Sunday for his first day of work on the new job.
As he was lifting weights, he heard in a booming baratone, "WILL CHERRY."
It was LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet.
Welcome to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA, Will Cherry. The former Griz point guard signed a two-year deal with the Cavs, the team announced Sunday morning after Cherry had cleared waivers. He'll make the NBA rookie minimum salary of just over $500,000.
"I’m pretty sure he saw me in the Summer League," Cherry said of James. "You know LeBron is a big sports fanatic. He slapped my hand and said happy you’re here and that was that.
"I was like, ‘That’s LeBron right there. That’s LeBron.’ You grow up watching a person like him who’s a couple years older than me and a person I’ve looked up to and I get to play with the best player in the world. It quickly goes to respect. It goes from being a fan to now being a teammate of mine. I get access to the best player in the world at all times. I go from admiring him to wanting to pick his brain about every little thing, whether it’s on the court or off the court."
It's a homecoming of sorts for Cherry, who played for the Cavs' NBA D-League team in Canton, Ohio, last season, then played with the franchise's NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas. Cherry opened some eyes back in July.
"I went out there in the Summer League and made a good impression, handled my business," Cherry said. "They saw what I can do and what I can give to the team. When I went out there and handled my business and did well on the Summer League team, that was fresh in their mind. It just so happened that they couldn’t pull the trigger right after the Summer League with LeBron coming back and the hoopla. They wanted to make some major moves. They didn’t know how things were going to work out.
"Coach (David) Blatt sat me down and pretty much told me that he didn’t want to even invite me to (Cleveland's) training camp for no reason. He pretty much knew what direction management wanted to go. He liked me a lot, but he didn’t want to see me come into training camp just to get cut.
"He told me that, ‘I think our paths will cross again.’ It just so happens it was true. When I first walked in the gym (Sunday) he was like, ‘Great to see you .. didn’t I say our paths were going to cross again?’ I said, ‘You did, coach.’ But in the back of my mind I didn’t think it was going to be this fast. This has worked out for the best. It’s great to be pretty much at home. It’s like a big family reunion."
In the interim, Cherry signed with the Toronto Raptors where he stayed during training camp and the exhibition season. Cherry's minutes were limited with the Raptors, but he made the most what playing time he was given.
"I was getting some good minutes with the Raptors here and there," Cherry said. "I made the best of the situation given to me. That’s all I could do. They decided to go in a different direction and did what they thought was best for their organization. Kudos to them for making the decision they thought was best for them."
The Cavs contacted Cherry's agent the day after he was released by the Raptors.
"It was a blessing in disguise to get cut from Toronto and the next day be picked up by the Cavaliers," Cherry said. "It came full circle for me. I was getting geared up to go play in Germany for the time being, but they called. I’m grateful, because after getting a taste of the NBA for an entire month, there’s no other league like it in the world. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the NBA. That was definitely a blessing in disguise."
His former college coach, Wayne Tinkle, couldn't be happier.
"It’s been such a long road for him," Tinkle said from Corvallis, Oregon, where he is now the coach at Oregon State. "It’s so hard. There are plenty of NBA-level players who never make the league. His persistence from playing injured his senior year, then rehabbing and going through the grind, he never lost focus.
"His mom did such a great job raising him, then he worked his tail off and I know he’s appreciative of the opportunity the University of Montana gave him. Now he’s doing it all on his own and making us all proud."
And Cherry's first game with the Cavs? It's Tuesday night in Portland against former Weber State star Damian Lillard, the NBA Rookie of the Year two seasons ago and a good friend of Cherry's from Oakland, California.
"The first stop is Damian Lillard, my good friend," Cherry said with a laugh. "Just like Montana and Weber State, only on both sides we have way better players."