Former Wisconsin Badgers basketball star and current Cleveland Cavaliers forward Sam Dekker made an appearance at Fox Cities Stadium at Neuroscience Group Field on Tuesday for Strike Out Cancer Day, an annual fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Family Foundation of Northeast Wisconsin.
The annual event, which was held before the Timber Rattlers’ game against the Quad Cities River Bandits, included a Dekker meet-and-greet, ceremonial first pitch and check presentation for the CCFF.
Before taking the mound for his first pitch, the Sheboygan native spoke to the media about the event’s personal significance and the foundation’s success with fundraising efforts this year.
“It’s a culmination of all our hard work over the past calendar year. It’s my third event and fourth year doing Strike Out Cancer Night, so this is the big night for us at CCFF,” Dekker said. “This year, it’s the most money we’ve ever raised. We had a gala that raised over a hundred grand, and now we’re getting a check tonight for another big lump sum of money and that’s all from the community, so just to help these people and to have this community come together and help people out and us have a little hand in it is very, very cool and special to be a part of.”
Dekker, who was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2015 National Basketball Association draft, is preparing to play for his third team in four seasons after being traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Cavaliers earlier this month.
In 12.1 minutes per game with the Clippers last year, Dekker averaged 4.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
After struggling to find a consistent spot in the Clippers’ rotation last year, the 24-year-old says he is looking forward to getting a fresh start with the Cavaliers.
“Both sides left it on a good term. The fit was just not the greatest and some things needed to be done, and that’s OK. That’s life and basketball,” Dekker said about his relationship with the Clippers organization leading up to and following the trade. “The Cavaliers have been expressing to me that they are very excited to have me aboard and I’m excited to be there. Spent a week there last week, just meeting everybody, getting to work already and I couldn’t be more excited to be with the Cavs, great organization that knows how to win, and also to be in the Midwest again is pretty cool,” Dekker said.
With the new team, Dekker sees potential for increased playing time and the fourth-year forward said he is excited about the opportunities that could await him in his new role.
While many outside observers have been quick to assume that Cleveland will be transitioning into a rebuilding phase in the post-LeBron James era, Dekker was quick to point out roster moves that indicate a different mindset from the front office.
“They’re by no means folding up. I know LeBron did amazing things, got them a title, four straight Finals, I mean, no one will be able to replicate what he did for the city of Cleveland, but I think there’s a sense of excitement now that we can see what we can compete with now,” Dekker said. “Signing Kevin (Love), I think, showed a lot of people that this isn’t going to be a rebuild. We’re going to still try to compete, add some pieces, and to be a part of that is exciting. I think there’s a lot of good room for growth and I’m excited to be, like I said, a part of that and contribute and hopefully land a good role there and show what I can do.”