When I first watched Justin Harper play in the 2007 I thought that he was a solid player who could maybe make an All Atlantic Ten team by his senior year. I heard that he an extraordinary work ethic and a good friend of mine told me that Justin was a student of the game, with that being said I didn’t project that he would one day become one of the most versatile players in the country and a potential 1st round pick.
Over the past four years I have watched Justin mature both as a leader and as a player. He now plays with the type of poise that makes you question not whether or not he will get drafted, but how high. The thing about Harper that many people don’t know is that he is a better person than he is a basketball player, he’s the type of young man that will make NBA executives feel very comfortable with selecting him to join their organization. Harper is a very dedicated student of the game as evident in his passion for film study. Justin told me that he watches Michael Jordan games in between his and that the biggest thing he has learned from watching Jordan is to remain calm on the court. Justin took on that same attitude this year leading Richmond to it’s first Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament championship eliminating 2-time defending champion Temple in the process. He now has the Richmond Spiders in the Sweet 16 with a pending matchup with 1 seed Kansas. I recently had a chance to interview Justin Harper and I got to ask him about this season, his past summer, and the upcoming draft.
NBADraft.net: How did you first become interested in basketball?
Justin Harper: In Kindergarden I started going to my neighborhood YMCA but around the 7th grade when I started playing AAU basketball I really began to take the game seriously. I played with the Richmond Metro under Coach Guy Buster and everyday my love for the game grew. Ever since then it has been my dream to play in the NBA
NBADraft.net: Are you ready to contribute to an NBA team right away and what type of role do you see yourself playing?
Justin Harper: I believe I am ready to step in and help a franchise in whatever role that they need me to play. I am a hard worker and I have been waiting my entire life to become a professional and that is the approach I am taking with this transition. I just want to work hard and learn how to win at the highest possible level. I feel as though I can help stretch the floor, rebound and overall just want to positively impact a team
NBADraft.net: How were you able to improve your scoring by 8 pts this season?
Justin Harper: I spent this summer in Boston working out and just competing every day with other college players gave me a chance to gain more confidence in the post and I learned how to pick my spots better. Everyday I tried to improve on my overall understanding of this game that I love so passionately and I think overall what I really gained from this past summer was patience on offense. It has really been beneficial to me and my team this season
NBADraft.net: How do you feel about your individual/ team performance this season?
Justin Harper: I feel as though our team has been playing well this season. I believed that we were an NCAA tournament team and that was our ultimate goal going into the season, and we’re not finished. As far as my individual goals, I feel as though I have had a solid season and my goal was to just get better everyday and I think I have done a good job at doing that. I have done studied film thoroughly this season with my coaches and it really allows me to get a better feel for the game
NBADraft.net: What aspect of your game do you feel as though you need to work on the most?
Justin Harper: I really want to work on my speed because I feel like being faster only makes me more versatile. I feel as though my versatility is what separates me from other players and If i am able to get faster it will only help my transition to the NBA smoother
NBADraft.net: Which current NBA player do you pattern your game after?
Justin Harper: Kevin Durant, he’s is a player who’s game I study and try to learn from. Kevin is such a threat on offense because he can beat you from outside/in with his shooting and his post game. I also think our leadership styles are similar because he’s a guy who leads by example and I try to do the same thing here at Richmond.
NBADraft.net: Who is the best player that you have played against?
Justin Harper: Derrick Rose, we played against them my freshmen year and he was so fast and strong it was amazing. Im not at all surprised that he is in conversation for MVP this year because he is so good and he’s a really hard worker
NBADraft.net: You weren’t heavily recruited by some of the elite programs in the country coming out of high school, Did you use that as motivation?
Justin Harper: The funny thing is I didn’t even start till my senior year in high school so I embraced the role of the underdog. I just continued to work hard and tried to get better everyday I stepped on a floor whether it be for practice or for games. I think I have played with a positive chip on my shoulders throughout my college career.