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Fri, 18 May 2012 03:30 AM EDT

Irving, who played beyond his years and above everyone’s expectancies including his own, was chosen the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, winning an award he mostly thought was within reach. Basketball scores

“It was a goal of mine,” he announced. “I knew as long as we won some games and beat some great team it was going to come.”

Irving received 117 of 120 possible 1st-place votes from a national media panel of writers and broadcasters. Irving finished with 592 points, way ahead of Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (170) and Denver’s Kenneth Faried (129).

Faried, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and New York’s Iman Shumpert received the other 1st-place votes, denying Irving’s bid to become the 4th player to win the award collectively.

The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft was obviously the league’s top first-year player, leading all rookies — and the Cavs — in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He also led all rookies in field-goal percentage (46.8), was 2nd in assists (5.4) and became one of just 6 beginners in league history to average at least 18 points and 5 assists.

But it was the other components of his game — an nasty crossover dribble, a courageous need to get to the basket, and a clutch, cold-blooded instinct in 4th quarter that separated him from the others.

Irving, who played only 11 games at Duke because of a toe injury before turning pro, continually took over games down the stretch for the Cavaliers. He kept them competitive and in the playoff race till mid-March, when the team’s front office made a decision to build for the future by trading his backup, guard Ramon Sessions, to the L.A Lakers for a 1st-round draft pick.

And beyond his impressive stats, Irving brought hope to the Cavaliers and Cleveland fans that have spent the previous 2 seasons making an attempt to move past James, who left as a free agent before he could bring them their 1st league title.

Irving seems to be the major piece the Cavs can build around, and they intend to get him some assistance this month with 3 of the top 34 picks in the NBA draft. The Cavs got fortunate and won the draft lottery a year ago, clearing the way for them to select Irving.

Notwithstanding having a limited training camp due to the labor lockout, Irving started the opener for Coach Byron Scott, who has formed a dynamic bond with his young star. He believes Irving has just scratched the surface of his potential.

“One of the easiest guys I’ve ever coached,” Scott asserted. “Last year was a learning experience for him and us. I expect so much more from him next season and beyond.”

Although it was assumed Irving would start the season opener, Scott did not notify him till the day of the game in order not to pamper the playmaker, but Irving had earned the job and it didn’t take him long to show the Cavs and the remainder of the NBA that stardom would be in his future.

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