Photo by Gordon Schmidt/UR Communications
At 82 inches tall, Justin Harper is a formidable sight both on and off the basketball court. The University of Richmond and Meadowbrook High School grad helped lead the Spiders to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament this past March and an Atlantic 10 Conference Championship. During his senior year, the power forward led the team in scoring and rebounding, finishing his career at No. 5 on Richmond's all-time list of top three-point scorers. His agility on the court, coupled with his shooting ability, caught the eye of NBA scouts early in his tenure with the Spiders, and draft watchers expect Harper to have a good chance of being picked in the June 23 draft, when potential first-rounders will gather in Newark, N.J.
RM: Which gives you the biggest thrill — a slam dunk, a three-pointer or a blocked shot and why?
JH: A slam dunk. The energy that it creates ignites everybody in the gym.
RM: When was the first time you made a dunk in a game?
JH: My first dunk was in ninth-grade at Meadowbrook High School. It was crazy to finally do it. It's an exciting thing for kids that age to be able to dunk.
RM: How do you plan to keep athletic stardom from going to your head if you're drafted by an NBA team?
JH: I know that I will always remember where I come from. I have always been a humble person. I worked hard to get to where I have gotten, and I will continue that to be successful.
RM: If you're signed by the NBA, what's the first thing you plan to buy with your signing bonus?
JH: Possibly a car for my mom, nothing too fancy.
RM: Which NBA player has a game similar to yours?
JH: Kevin Durant [of the Oklahoma City Thunder].
RM: What was the most valuable lesson your dad taught you about basketball?
JH: When he told me that everybody puts their shoes on the same way. It's about how hard you work.
RM: What's your most memorable moment on court?
JH: When we played Wake Forest this year and Kevin [Anderson] shot a three-pointer, and he bricked it. I jumped up and caught it for a tip [a dunk]. I got really excited and ended up getting a technical foul.
RM: What's the funniest thing that has happened on the court?
JH: When Francis [Cedric Martel] checked into the game with his jersey on backward.
RM: Where's your favorite place in Richmond to chow down when you're really hungry?
JH: TK's in Shockoe Bottom. I get the chicken wings and pancakes.
RM: What's on your iPod that you listen to before a game?
JH: Tupac. He gets me pumped up.
RM: People don't know that I …
JH: Played the saxophone in my high-school marching band until my 11th-grade year.
RM: Who would you like to switch places with for one day?
JH: President Obama, but just for a day. Put that "just for a day" in bold.
RM: If you could play with an NBA player, who would you pick?
JH: LeBron James [of the Miami Heat].
RM: Do you think that Richmond's Sweet 16 spot was overshadowed by VCU's Final Four run?
JH: No. Both teams made legitimate history for their respective schools. I don't feel that either overshadowed the other one.
RM: Where do you think you will be on the day of the NBA draft?
JH: Hopefully in Newark, N.J.