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Rebounding Has Taken Ron Harper Jr.’s Game to a New Level

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The senior has posted a double-double in each of the first 3 games

NCAA Basketball: Lehigh at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

When he made the decision to return for his senior season, Ron Harper Jr. was expected to once again be a major part of Rutgers’ success. His game has developed incrementally since his arrival in 2018, to the point where he entered this year on the Big Ten Preseason All-Conference Team, along with several other watch lists.

Through 3 games, RHJ has lived up to the hype. He’s leading the team in scoring at 15.3 PPG, but that doesn’t tell the full story. The most impressive part of his development has been his rebounding, an area where the Scarlet Knights desperately needed a boost after losing Myles Johnson to the transfer portal.

And it’s not just that Harper has improved his rebounding numbers, he’s shattering his previous season averages.

Freshman (2018-19) - 3.1 rebounds/game

Sophomore (2019-20) - 5.8 rebounds/game

Junior (2020-21) - 5.9 rebounds/game

Senior - 11.3 rebounds/game

I know what you’re thinking. It’s been only 3 games against low-major competition. I went back and looked at the first 3 games from his previous seasons. Here they are:

Freshman (2018-19) - 2.7 rebounds/game

Sophomore (2019-20) - 7.3 rebounds/game

Junior (2020-21) - 7.7 rebounds/game

Senior - 11.3 rebounds/game

That’s a significant jump.

One factor, without question, is the increase in minutes. With Rutgers playing three tight games well into the second half, he’s had to stay on the floor a little longer than usual. But KenPom shows RHJ with a Defensive Rebounding Rate of 26.0% so far, which puts him in the Top 150 nationally. His previous high in that category was 17.7% as a Sophomore. Simply put, he’s become a much more efficient rebounder this season.

Harper Jr. knew he had to grow this part of his game as a Senior, especially after he received his NBA draft evaluation last spring. He’s followed through by showing a commitment to attack the glass every night.

Below is sample of some of his best work so far. Notice not only the positioning and awareness, but also the willingness to mix it up against opposing bigs, which was not really something we saw early on in his Rutgers career.

It’s a small sample size against lower-level competition, but RHJ’s evolution as a rebounder is one very encouraging part of the Scarlet Knights’ 3-0 start.