Dylan Harper stood at the free throw line, his New York Renaissance team down a point with just a few seconds remaining last Friday.
A trip to the Peach Jam semifinals was now in his hands.
It would be two shots for Harper, who was just 1-of-3 from the stripe to that point in the game.
Harper earned the trip to the line with an aggressive, yet skillful attack off the dribble. While his talents on the court are many, you might say that aspect of his game — getting to the rim and finishing — is the greatest strength of the 6-foot-5 combo guard from New Jersey.
But fouled on the way up, Harper didn’t finish this time. He’d have to do that at the free throw line.
As he stood waiting to shoot the first free throw, it was impossible to ignore how much Dylan physically looked like his older brother, former Rutgers star Ron Harper, Jr.
Dylan rattled in the first shot. The hard part was over. Game tied. Overtime was now the worst case for the Rens.
But that’s when another similarity to his brother appeared. Dylan’s mannerisms changed after making the first shot. Emboldened, you could tell by the look in his eyes, now he was going for the knockout.
Just four months earlier in Bloomington, it was Ron, Jr. who delivered the kill shot — a last second, 3-point dagger that crushed souls on senior night at IU.
When Indiana offered Dylan a scholarship in April, Ron, Jr.’s response was simple — and just as cold-blooded. On Twitter he retweeted Dylan’s announcement of the offer, and posted a GIF of his immediate on-court reaction to that game-winner a month earlier. Ostensibly Ron, Jr. was reminding Indiana fans of both that moment, and his thoughts on his younger brother playing for the Hoosiers.
Many IU fans believed the recruitment had ended right then and there. Another Ron Harper, Jr. dagger had struck a fatal blow.
But when I asked Dylan at Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C. last week about his early relationship with IU, and specifically assistant coach Yasir Rosemond, he broke a smile.
“He (Rosemond) always texts me, he’s always playing around and stuff,” Dylan told The Daily Hoosier. “That’s my guy. He texts me, he believes in me. He thinks I can do big things. That’s a great coaching staff.”
Irrespective of which program he was asked about, Harper reminded that he was still young, and the clear implication was that the rising high school junior isn’t focused much on recruiting just yet.
But if that Tweet by his brother marked the end of Indiana’s recruitment, Dylan didn’t know it, and neither did IU.
“My Twitter was blowing up the next few days with replies,” Dylan said of the response to his brother’s retweet. “But it’s all love at the end of the day really.”
Dylan said along with Rutgers and Texas Tech, IU is one of the schools he is hearing from the most right now. Ranked a 5-star and in the top-30 in the class of 2024, programs like Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are all taking a look too. What they all like, is Dylan’s combination of physicality and skill, along with that unmistakable Harper moxie.
What does he know about Indiana?
“They are team you never sleep on,” Dylan said. “They have great players, they play together, they play for fun, and they all just play for each other really.”
Ron, Jr. is an unapologetic Rutgers supporter, as he should be. But of course big brother was just having fun with the IU offer, and he’ll let Dylan forge his own path. Following in Ron, Jr.’s footsteps is a possibility, however. Dylan said last week that Rutgers was the only summer visit he was planning to schedule at this point, although more could follow.
“It’s (Rutgers) a great program, (Steve) Pikiell is a great coach, he gets people where they need to be,” Dylan said. “He turned the program from zero to 100. He makes stuff happen.”
Like Ron, Jr., Dylan makes stuff happen on the court too. He admitted to being unnerved as he stepped to the free throw line with his team’s Peach Jam lives on his shoulders.
The game was in the largest gym in the facility, packed with fans and college coaches — including Rosemond.
The officials made him think about the moment a little longer as they wiped up sweat from the floor.
“When I got there (to the free throw line) and I looked around and everyone’s watching and yelling, you just get a little intimidated,” Dylan said.
And that’s when you could have easily mistaken him for Ron, Jr.
“But once you make the first one, you know the second one is going in,” he continued.
It did. And the second one touched nothing but net.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) June 9, 2022
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