In the months leading up to the 2020-’21 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the ‘BTPowerhouse 25,’ which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.
Today's edition will take a brief look at Ron Harper of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who came in tied at No. 22 in the rankings. The Scarlet Knights are hoping he can build off a successful sophomore season.
'BTPowerhouse 25' - No. 22 Ron Harper:
- Eligibility: Junior
- Career Totals: 62 games, 1,562 minutes, 617 points, 276 rebounds, 67 assists
- 2019-’20 Averages: 25.2 min, 10.0 pts, 4.5 rebs, 1.1 asts, 0.7 blks, 0.7 stls
- Positional Role: Small Forward
While one can debate whether Harper was Rutgers’ best player last season, there’s no debating he was a pivotal piece on the best Scarlet Knight squad in decades. He was a consistent contributor that started every game. Fans are hoping he can improve even a bit more as an upperclassman.
Harper was a bit like a Swiss army knife last season. He was an efficient player offensively, could stretch the floor, did damage on the boards, and defended pretty well. He didn’t have a single area that blew people away statistically, but the combination was impressive. It’s rare to find a player who can do as many things as Harper can.
The biggest improvement for Harper last season was from deep. He improved from 27.8 to 35.2 percent from three-point range and ranked 16th in the Big Ten during conference play. His defensive block rate also improved, jumping to 3.8 against Big Ten opponents, good enough to rank 16th in the conference. He also posted top 25 marks in the conference in effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, turnover rate, and defensive rebounding rate.
-Areas for Improvement
There aren’t many holes in Harper’s game, but the most apparent one is inside the paint. While Harper became a reliable option for the Scarlet Knights from deep last season, he still struggles to do damage inside the arc. He only made 47.2 percent of his two-point attempts during conference play and had similarly underwhelming numbers regarding his ability to get to the free throw line.
Along with improving his interior offensive game, fans will hope Harper takes steps forward as a passer and on the offensive boards. If he can do those things, he has a chance to be a truly special player in the Big Ten this season.
Given his performance last season, it’s reasonable to think Harper will (once again) be one of the Big Ten’s best players this season. If his shooting numbers remain consistent, he should remain as the team’s key offensive piece, stretching the floor to allow players like Geo Baker to get into the lane and do damage. In a lot of ways, Rutgers’ season will ride with Harper. The better he does, the better the team should do.
The biggest question will be whether the team can find a second shooter outside of him. Akwasi Yeboah was arguably the team’s second-best shooter last season and is now gone. Steve Pikiell will need to find someone to fill that role. Otherwise, Harper’s production could be limited as teams key in on him. It should be interesting to watch.