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Aussie Matthew Dellavedova's rise to NBA fame no surprise to proud hometown locals

Updated: 2015-06-11 13:35

Aussie Matthew Dellavedova's rise to NBA fame no surprise to proud hometown locals

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) and guard Iman Shumpert (4) celebrates after beating the Golden State Warriors in game two of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena.  [Photo/Agencies]

MELBOURNE - While the eyes of millions of Americans are focused on the bustling, metropolitan city of Cleveland, citizens of a small, regional Australian town are also glued to their television screens.

Matthew Dellavedova, the current darling of American sport and the man whose exploits in the NBA playoffs have had basketball commentators in a swoon, hails from Maryborough in country Victoria.

The gritty point guard has been instrumental in Cleveland's turnaround in the NBA Championship series, with even superstar teammate LeBron James this week describing him as a man of "steel".

Thrust into the starting role due to an injury to laconic Cav's guard Kyrie Irving, the rugged, bearded Australian has out-tussled league MVP Stephen Curry and helped the Cavaliers shut down the Golden State Warriors' record-breaking offense.

Dellavedova, on the biggest stage in his life, has been thrilling crowds three times the size of his hometown, where he played Australian football and basketball as a junior.

His parents, although described by Dellavedova as fine amateur athletes in their day, never rose to the lofty heights at which their son now resides.

But it could also seem that no one from the small town has, for "Delly" has cemented himself as Maryborough's biggest international export.

As a result, the town has been struck down with "Delly fever" and Maryborough District Advertiser editor Kirsty Johnston told Xinhua on Thursday that it was inescapable.

"It's quite tense during games, and if you speak to people just after games, they've all watched it," she said.

"You'd be surprised how many are talking about it, a lot of people you might not expect.

"The older population who come in and get their paper have made comments like 'have you watched the game or seen the score?' and they've been following it a lot."

Last week, before the start of the finals, the paper even changed its colors to the wine and gold of the Cleveland Cavaliers, something Dellavedova praised from his Instagram.

Johnston said Dellavedova oozes passion for his home town and the population couldn't have asked for a better ambassador.

"We've been following his journey since he left for America, but there's a lot more chatter around now that there's so much more attention given to him," she said.

"He was born and raised here in Maryborough, so we claim him as our own. He has parents, grandparents and other family that still lives here.

"When he comes back to Australia he always comes home, not only to see everyone but he runs a junior clinic here, so he spends a lot of time practising at the stadium.

"He even brought his St Mary's (college) teammates visited a couple of years ago for a camp as well."

Dellavedova's scrappy style of play came under fire on the road to the finals, but it endeared him to city of Cleveland, as well as fans in Australia.

To them, he just plays hard ball. Johnston said the Australian' s tenacity is a reflection of his demeanor -- he is hard-working and determined to succeed, no matter the level at which he plays.

"There's no criticism from Maryborough and there have only been positive the way he plays," she said.

"People who grew up with him know he is very determined and tough, and always does the job he needs to do.

"No one is surprised by the way he is playing and throwing himself 100 percent into each match."

Through his tough-as-nails approach, Dellavedova's cult status in Cleveland rose. For the man being paid the least of any other player in the finals, he approaches the game with an, at times, almost negligent doggedness that no other player dares to match.

But it's the body on the line that Cleveland fans have craved. It's a passion the city has needed for the last 45 years since its inception, for the Cavs have never won an NBA Championship.

Even team mate and four-time league MVP LeBron James continues to throw plaudits the way of the plucky, 6-foot-four guard.

"He's made of steel or something," he said after the team's game 3 win.

Social media was abuzz after the match, with some diehards calling for "delly" to be immortalized in bronze outside the team' s stadium in Cleveland.

Johnston said that might be a stretch, but there was a better chance it would happen in Maryborough.

"It's definitely something we should ask the people to see what they think," she said.

In the mean time, the town will have to settle for the local stadium being renamed in his honor. 3AW radio reported that it would henceforth be known as the "Dellavedova Dome" in homage to their local NBA hero.

While the population of 2 million in the greater Cleveland area might have fallen for the underdog story, it's the population of fewer than 8,000 that will be cheering the hardest when game four takes place in Cleveland on Thursday (Australian time).

The Cavaliers lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, with game 4 to be played in Cleveland on Friday.

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