Scotty Pippen Jr., Ron Harper Jr. strive to make their own NBA names - jobs fights tigma
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Scotty Pippen Jr., Ron Harper Jr. strive to make their own NBA names

NBA

Scotty Pippen Jr., Ron Harper Jr. strive to make their own NBA names

As Scotty Pippen Jr. prepared to talk to reporters at last week’s NBA Draft Combine, the son of the Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer bumped fists with the prospect next to him.

“Play hard and win,” Pippen Jr. said. “That’s all that matters.”

As Ron Harper Jr. prepared to talk to reporters the very next day, the son of the dependent Bulls’ guard smiled at his teammate next to him.

“Camp champs,” Harper Jr. said. “2-0, baby.”

So you might say the apple does not fall far from the tree.

While neither Pippen Jr. or Harper Jr. are projected in next month’s NBA draft to be the surefire, top-10 picks their fathers were, their focus on winning sure sounds the same.

“That’s all that matters,” Pippen Jr. said.

Pippen Jr. is a 6-foot-3-inch guard who left Vanderbilt following a junior season in which his 20.4 points-per-game average led the SEC in scoring.

Harper Jr. is a 6-foot-6-inch wing who increased his scoring average in each of his four seasons at Rutgers, developing a reputation as a big shotmaker who is undaunted by the moment.

Scouts and executives are split on whether either will stick in the NBA. But both players projected confidence and charisma in detailing lessons learned from their famous fathers while also carving out their own identities.

“I would say it’s a dream come true,” Pippen Jr. said last week at Wintrust Arena, when asked about the combine experience landing him in Chicago. “I obviously grew up here. I was raised here. My family is still here. I had dreams as a kid being here throughout the draft process. It’s just surreal to me.

“The city of Chicago showed so much love to my family, my dad. As a kid, always going to Bulls games and now to be back in the city where it all started feels great. I consider this home. ”

That’s despite being born in Portland, Ore., As his father played for the Trail Blazers and splitting a high school career between Florida and California. But Pippen Jr. spent formative years in the Chicago suburbs, dealing with all that comes with possessing such a well-known name.

“The name is a blessing and a curse,” Pippen Jr. said. “People doubt me because of it. They expect me to be something and put a certain pressure on me and they think of my dad when they look at me. I’m used to it. I’m my own person. I’m creating my own legacy here.

“I’ve always had the pressure to perform. Even being a little kid growing up in Chicago, we’d go play kids and everyone would go at me. Parents would say, ‘Oh, that’s Scottie Pippen’s son. Go at him. ‘ I’m used to it. At the end of the day, I’m my own person. I compete. My Dad is not out there with me. It’s my own legacy.

“I think it contributes to me being so mentally tough. Me being able to lock into the game and not worry about the extra stuff or what people think about me.”

Pippen Jr. said he knows everyone can score at the next level, so his focus is on doing the little things that make teammates better and impact winning. Beyond his father, a role model is Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

“His story resonates with me,” Pippen Jr. said. “Him being in Portland, people always told him to leave and go to the bigger market teams. Me being at Vanderbilt, people always wondered why I did not transfer to the top schools. I just kind of stuck it out there and grinded because I believed in myself and what we had there. ”

At Vanderbilt, Pippen Jr. played for Jerry Stackhouse, another NBA star. But whereas Stackhouse found his stardom coming from the blue-chip program of North Carolina, Pippen burst onto the NBA scene in 1987 during a breakout performance at the old Portsmouth Invitational.

Then-Bulls general manager Jerry Krause engineered the draft-day trade to acquire Pippen’s rights on the same night he selected Horace Grant. Pippen won six NBA championships on the way to also being named one of the league’s 50 greatest players and a Hall of Fame selection.

“My Dad has taught me so much about the game,” Pippen Jr. said. “I think there’s a connection because we were both underdogs. Even though I led the SEC in scoring, I was not highly scouted or talked about. He just told me to keep working and go kill these workouts. ”

That’s also the plan Harper Jr. hate. He averaged 15.8 points while shooting 39.8 percent from the shorter 3-point line in college and believes his shooting translates to the next level.

“The way I’m able to space the floor, shoot the 3 and defend multiple positions, I feel I got to showcase those things that will translate to the next level immediately,” Harper Jr. said. “I’m confident if you need me to be a big shotmaker or a big team guy.”

Harper Jr. said he’s working to get in better shape and tone his body as he tries to follow his father’s footsteps. Harper won five championships between the Bulls’ second three-peat and years with the Lakers, transforming his game from a high-flying, high-scoring guard to a dependable, two-way player who often drove the opponent’s toughest assignment.

“He told me to soak it all in, play my game and be myself,” Harper Jr. said of advice imparted by his Dad. “From him, I know it’s hard to sustain winning. The work he put in to win five championships does not come easy. That championship culture, I strive to bring that to a team. ”

Both prospects chuckled when asked how much they knew about their famous fathers’ careers. Harper Jr. was an infant when his Dad retired. Pippen Jr. was born after the Bulls’ second three-peat.

Still, Harper Jr. called his dad “a bucket” from watching highlights of his pre-knee injury days. Pippen Jr. grew up going to some Bulls games in the Derrick Rose era, so highlights of his dad played on the jumbotron.

Both sons watched “The Last Dance” with their fathers.

“I heard every story in the world from my Dad about those days with the Bulls,” Harper Jr. said. But ‘The Last Dance’ took you to a deeper understanding of it. You heard the same stories from different dudes and you heard some different stories. So I enjoyed it a lot. ”

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