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NBA Draft 2022: Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr. signs two-way deal after going undrafted

Ron Harper Jr., one of the best players in Rutgers basketball history, did not snap the program’s drought of NBA Draft picks, but his professional basketball career began on Thursday night nonetheless.

The former Scarlet Knight star was not selected in the 2022 NBA Draft, meaning Rutgers remains with 19 players drafted all-time, with the latest still being Hamady N’Diaye in 2010 (56th overall, Minnesota Timberwolves).

But Harper did sign a two-way deal with the Toronto Raptors shortly after the draft concluded, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“58 reasons why let’s work @Raptors,” Harper tweeted shortly after the news broke, referring to the 58 picks in the reduced 2022 NBA Draft field.

The son of a five-time NBA champion, Harper follows in his father’s footsteps after creating his own legacy in Piscataway.

A nugget that connects the two: Wayne Embry, who currently serves as a senior basketball advisor in Toronto, selected Harper Sr. out of Miami (Ohio) in 1986 when he was the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s according to current Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, who called it a “full circle moment.”

“It would mean a lot (to be drafted) because it would show people that you can go to the NBA out of Rutgers and you can go to the NBA after four years at Rutgers,” Harper told NJ Advance Media’s Adam Zagoria during the NBA Draft combine last month. “I feel like it would mean a lot to New Jersey to see a Rutgers guy go back to the NBA and I feel like it would show a lot of these New Jersey kids that Rutgers is a place that can send you to the next level. ”

Harper finished his Rutgers career with 1,525 points, tied with Roy Hinson for 11th-most in program history.

He became the 11th player in program history to be named an All-American last season, receiving an honorable mention nod from the Associated Press. Harper was also the first player in program history to be named an All-Big Ten selection by the Associated Press and the third player in program history to win the Haggerty Award. Harper joined Phil Sellers (1975, 76) and Quincy Douby (2006) in winning the award, which is given annually to the best men’s college basketball player in the New York metropolitan area.

Harper was instrumental in the Scarlet Knights earning its first NCAA Tournament bid in 30 years during his junior season in 2020-21, and in bringing them back to March Madness as a senior in 2021-22. It was just the second time in program history that the Scarlet Knights made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, along with the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons.

Harper led the Scarlet Knights in scoring last season with 15.8 points on 44.2% shooting (47.7% on 2s, 39.8% on 3s, 79.5% on free throws) per game, along with 5.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists. The most memorable moments of the campaign were his iconic game-winning shots against then-No. 1 Purdue and Indiana at Assembly Hall.

Harper had one more year of collegiate eligibility remaining, but he elected to pursue his professional aspirations following his fourth season in Piscataway. He signed with Roc Nation Sports and put himself in front of multiple teams throughout the draft process, taking part in the NBA Draft combine before reportedly working out for the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.

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Brian Fonseca may be reached at bfonseca@njadvancemedia.com.

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