Damian Lillard, off from his Trail Blazers duties over the summer, spent four days mentoring Auburn University sophomore point guard Jared Harper last July. Tom Green of the Alabama Local News wrote about the time the two spent together and some advice Harper picked up along the way.
Harper’s uncle, David Hudson, owns Elite Youth Camps which helps pro athletes (including Lillard himself) run youth camps and tournaments. Knowing he was coming to Portland over the summer to help with Lillard’s camp, Hudson asked the Portland pro if he would spend some time with his nephew.
Lillard agreed and the two worked out at the Beaverton YMCA several times.
As they worked out, Harper asked questions and Lillard answered, offering up advice on how to become a better point guard -- and the kinds of things that make the difference between a good college player and the type of player who can make it in the NBA.
”Just with him being my favorite player currently, it was great just to pick his mind and see how he plays and how he’s able to get to his spots,” Harper said. “It was definitely a great learning experience.”
The undersized Auburn point guard is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 assists per game this season. He has been a key player for the Tigers, helping his team reach the No. 4 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
The biggest advice Harper took away from the early-morning sessions was to be more cerebral on the court and how to better find his spots--slowing the game down at times, not dribbling as much and just being “calm, cool and collected.” That last trait is something Lillard already saw in Harper, who he could immediately tell was “just tough” by the way he carried himself.
Lillard seems to relish his role as a mentor to younger players. He has made himself available to college players or NBA rookies over the years, like exchanging texts with CJ McCollum when the latter was in college, taking Luis Montero under his wing in Montero’s lone NBA season, or helping Isaiah Briscoe while he was fighting for a roster spot last preseason with the Blazers.