Ron Harper Jr. has become the leader of Rutgers

DAYTON — Ron Harper saw the work ethic. He saw the natural ability. He saw how good his son Ron Harper Jr.understood the game.

It will come, he told him repeatedly. Don’t worry about where you are now. Just keep working. You are a late bloomer.

“I saw him before he saw himself,” the five-time NBA champion told the Post in a phone interview. “I didn’t check where he was. … I’ve seen what’s going to happen to him. i know the game I was around. I have seen his work. I had faith in what he could become.”

His son agrees.

Overlooked and underrecruited by New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep as an under-150 talent, Ron Jr. has continued to develop at Rutgers, improving season after season. On Tuesday, the winger reached another milestone: becoming the 11th player in school history to be recognized as an Associated Press All-American.

The 6ft 6 tall Franklin Lakes, NJ could become the first Scarlet Knight to win the Haggerty Award, given to the region’s top player, since Quincy Douby in 2006. The most important thing for him is that he played Keys Rutgers’ return to the national stagethe first time it has made consecutive NCAA tournaments since 1975-76, after ending a 30-year tournament drought last March.

Rutgers forward Ron Harper Jr. (24) catches the ball while Iowa Hawkeyes guard Connor McCaffery (30) defends in the first half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Ron Harper Jr.
Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

The path wasn’t exactly easy. His last name brought with it a lot of unwanted pressure and unfair expectations. He was told that he would never be as good as his famous father. However, Ron helped by advising his son to ignore the noise. By telling Ron Jr. he wanted him to be the best, Harper lightened that burden.

Ron Harper #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball across the court during the game against the Phoenix Sun at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles February 7, 2001.
Ron Harper Sr. with the Lakers in 2001.
Getty Images

“Getting older, maturing, becoming my own man, it’s gotten better and easier,” said Ron Jr., who averages 15.6 points per game as team-best, along with 5.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a career-high of 39 percent 3-point shooting. “But he has a lot of great tips, a lot of great advice. He’s everything I want to be. He knows how to get there and he gave me a lot of advice.”

There are similarities between the two as they both developed late. Ron didn’t play high school basketball until his junior year after being circumcised as a freshman. His son was not a desirable contender in high school. They are different players. Ron was a gifted athlete who could set himself apart from other players. Ron Jr. is a far better shot than his old man ever was.

“When he was in high school, I used to tease him a lot: ‘If I had your jump shot, I’d still play in the NBA,'” joked Ron, who spent 15 years in the league and was selected in the first round (eighth overall) of the Cavaliers in 1986.

Ron has only attended 10 games this year, mostly because he wants to keep his son in the spotlight. This is his time. his team. his chance. The older Harper doesn’t want the attention. When he feels his son needs him, he shows up. He’ll be in attendance Wednesday night when Rutgers meets Notre Dame in an NCAA Tournament First Four game, at home in Dayton where he grew up, and the former NBA star can’t wait. Seeing his kid shine on the pitch is one of his greatest achievements.

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“It’s like winning an NBA championship, watching him play and seeing the fun the boy is having,” said Ron. “It makes a lot of fun. It’s a blessing to see how far he’s come and how much work he’s put into it and how much he’s starting to believe in himself.

“It’s great. It’s a dream to see your child following in your footsteps. I made the blueprint, he did the work.”

When Rutgers’ season is over, Harper Jr. will have to make a decision: go back to school for his final year of eligibility or chase his professional dreams. His basketball story is far from over.

“I still think he has a lot more to show and prove,” said Ron. “I don’t think it’s over yet. I tell him today, ‘You didn’t scratch half [the surface],’ and I believe that.” Ron Harper Jr. has become the leader of Rutgers


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