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Tyler Cavanaugh has always proved he’s belonged and plans to prove that this season in Spain

By Tom Ballato

Tyler Cavanaugh is in his fourth professional season since graduating from George Washington University. His journey has been all about finding the right opportunity from college to the pros, but with that opportunity, he has left his mark everywhere he’s played.

He played high school basketball at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, a few minutes from Syracuse, New York. While in high school, he led his team to three straight New York State Class A titles from 2009-2011. Cavanaugh committed to play collegiately at Wake Forest.

Cavanaugh decided on Wake Forest because he wanted to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a conference where a win is hard to come by. He played minutes early on at Wake Forest for a relatively young team.

After his sophomore year, the coach that recruited him, Jeff Bzdelik, was fired, prompting Cavanaugh to transfer. “I transferred because he got fired, and then I wanted to go somewhere where I would have a bigger role and also an opportunity where I could make the NCAA Tournament and compete for a conference championship,” he said.

Cavanaugh sat out the 2014-2015 season after transferring to George Washington. He worked on his game and got stronger in the weight room. In his first season at George Washington, he averaged 16.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and shot 41.7% from three. George Washington beat Virginia at the beginning of the season and was ranked in the 20s for a few weeks. The team fell short of the NCAA Tournament but received a bid to the NIT.

Tyler Cavanaugh with Iberostar Tenerife of Spain’s Liga ACB.

George Washington won the NIT Tournament in 2016, the first time in program history the school won a postseason tournament. Cavanaugh was named Most Outstanding Player of the NIT after averaging 19.4 points and 9.0 rebounds five postseason games.
It was an amazing experience for Cavanaugh and his teammates to cut down Madison Square Garden’s nets.

His senior season, George Washington lost a bunch of seniors after winning the NIT. Cavanaugh had a stellar senior season, and the team won 20 games, but they failed to make the NCAA Tournament once again. A disappointing season, but Cavanaugh knew it was going to be an uphill battle.

Cavanaugh played in the Reese’s All-Star game for college seniors right before the 2017 Final Four and at the Portsmouth Invitational, where his team won the invitational. He had pre-draft workouts with 13 teams, six to eight weeks leading up the NBA Draft.

It was a whirlwind for Cavanaugh leading up to the NBA Draft, and on draft night, he went undrafted. He found the right opportunity and went to play summer league with the Atlanta Hawks, a team he didn’t even work out with.

After only appearing in two summer league games for Atlanta, they signed him to a training camp deal. “Going into the season, I signed a training camp contract and go there and go to the G League. I just wanted to improve, and then they had a bunch of injuries Atlanta early on to big guys. They called me up on a two-way (contract), and the first game I played was against the Cavs,” he said.

His first offensive possession, he is guarded by Lebron James. Cavanaugh was able to keep playing with Atlanta because players were out longer than expected due to injury. He had a breakout game early on in the season against the New Orleans Pelicans, where he scored 16 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and shot 4 for 4 from three.

Atlanta converted his two-way contract, and he signed a multi-year deal with the Hawks. He appeared in 39 games playing 13.3 minutes per game and averaged 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. Cavanaugh had a great experience in Atlanta, living out his dreams of playing in the NBA. It worked out to his advantage going undrafted, and his agent, Keith Glass, did a great job finding him the right opportunity and paid off for Cavanaugh.

In 2018, Cavanaugh signed a two-way contract with the Utah Jazz. The Jazz was one of the teams he worked out for during his pre-draft process, so there was a relationship. The Jazz had an established roster, and Cavanaugh only played in 11 games. He spent a lot of time with the Jazz with their G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, in the same city. Cavanaugh spoke highly of the organization, and it was a successful season because he got better as a player.

Cavanaugh signed to play with the New York Knicks 2019 Summer League team. According to his agent, he signed with New York because they would allow him to showcase his talents despite interest from 11 other teams. In four games, Cavanaugh averaged 12.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game. The Knicks didn’t offer him an NBA contract, and Cavanaugh was ready to play overseas with offers on the table.

He signed with Alba Berlin, a German club in the EuroLeague and German League, Basketball Bundesliga (BBL). Alba Berlin struggled in the EuroLeague but won the championship in Basketball Bundesliga. His first year overseas was an adjustment because only six foreigners could play, and Cavanaugh was the odd man out in the BBL.

It took Cavanaugh some time to adjust, but his game translated well in the EuroLeague, and he played more in the EuroLeague then in Germany. It left him eager to prove himself even more.

Now in his fourth professional season, Cavanaugh is playing for Iberostar Tenerife of Spain’s Liga ACB. While he isn’t playing in the EuroLeague this season, the ACB has strong competition and four in the EuroLeague. He hopes to use those games to get better and help the team win.

He’s appeared in three games for Iberostar Tenerife in a season that is just getting started, averaging 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.

The 26-year-old Cavanaugh is still getting started with his career overseas. He can stretch the floor and shoots at a high percentage from three, a skillset fit for European competition. Cavanaugh’s goal this season is to do whatever it takes for his team to win and carve out a role for himself in Spain.

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