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Raptors’ Ron Harper Jr. ‘confident I belong’ in NBA


LAS VEGAS — It became a reality on Saturday: Ron Harper Jr. is an NBA player. The son of the five-time NBA champion made his debut on the Las Vegas Summer League, realizing a lifelong dream that seemed unlikely for a great portion of his life. 

“It felt good to go on the market and get my feet wet,” the 6-foot-6 Harper said after scoring seven points and adding five rebounds and two steals for the Raptors in a 97-77 victory over the 76ers on Saturday. “You bought to go on the market work the nerves out of course. It’s your first NBA motion in front of the world. I felt like I played well.” 

There have been some early jitters for Harper. The Franklin Lakes, N.J., native, who’s on a two-way contract with Toronto, didn’t have many touches early on, and turned the ball over in transition. 

He got his first points within the second quarter after following his own miss and attending to the free-throw line. He sank his first shot from the sector within the third quarter, a left-corner 3-pointer, then worked around a defender nicely a couple of possessions later for a bank shot. 

Ron Harper Jr. fulfilled a lifelong dream in making his NBA debut. NBAE via Getty Images

Raptors summer league coach Trevor Gleeson thought Harper was affected by nerves early, but improved because the game went on. The Raptors had a scrimmage on Thursday, and Gleeson said Harper was their best player that day. 

“I’m definitely confident I belong,” Harper said. “I do know I belong here.” 

For Harper to even be on this position is an accomplishment in itself. He was a calmly regarded three-star recruit coming out of Don Bosco Prep in Latest Jersey, and now finds himself within the NBA. He had a famous last name, but little hype behind him. At Rutgers, under coach Steve Pikiell, he methodically emerged as considered one of the higher players within the Big Ten. 

His fourth and final 12 months at Rutgers was his best. He produced career-highs in points (15.8), assists (1.9), 3-point shooting (39.8) and free-throw percentage (79.5). He led the Scarlet Knights to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the primary time since 1974-75, and won the Haggerty Award, given to the realm’s top local player, Rutgers’ first player to garner that honor since Quincy Douby in 2006. 

Now, he has to prove himself all once more. He has begun to achieve this by stepping into higher shape and eating higher. He’s noticeably trimmer. 

Ron Harper Jr. shoots during the Raptors' Summer League game on Saturday.Ron Harper Jr. shoots throughout the Raptors’ Summer League game on Saturday. NBAE via Getty Images

“That’s been the largest thing for me this summer: educating myself on learn how to eat properly, what to eat, how much to eat,” Harper said. “It’s really carried me on this journey. Before I felt prefer it was something I lacked. Now I actually have a terrific understanding of what I would like to do.” 

Harper had been hoping to get drafted, but although he wasn’t chosen, he ended up with a franchise known for development. The Raptors have turned unsung prospects, corresponding to Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, into strong NBA players. Harper is hoping to be Toronto’s latest success story. 

“I actually feel I fit well with the organization,” he said. “We’ve been working with them for a few weeks now and it’s been nothing but positive things. … I’m comfortable to be here, I’m comfortable to be a component of it, and I do know my best basketball is in the long run.” 

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