Former Three Rivers Raider Kavion Pippen is following in the footsteps of fellow alums Marvin “Moon” McCrary and Latrell Sprewell.
McCrary (1978-80) and Sprewell (1988-90) are the only two former Raiders to be drafted to the NBA. Pippen, meanwhile, signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
“I told a lot of people early on that he had all the tools,” said Three Rivers coach Gene Bess, who is entering his 50th season with the program with 1,281 wins. “Just a great person. I told him he had a chance to play in the league, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
Pippen, 22, tried out and was later signed to the Warriors after three of the team’s big men (Willie Cauley-Stein, Kevon Looney and Alen Smailagic) went down with injuries. While Pippen is a longshot to stay on the roster as players get healthy, the signing puts him on the doorstep of making the league.
“I would say that he’ll go play overseas, but I think he is gradually going to get better,” Bess said. “I think he is going to get in the league before it is over. I really do … He is just one of those really good guys who is going to get a lot of favor from management.”
Another potential landing spot for Pippen if he doesn’t stay with the practice squad is Golden State’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, Calif.
As a 6-foot-10 forward out of Hamburg, Ark., Pippen, the nephew of NBA Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen, averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds during his freshman season at Three Rivers in 2015-16.
Pippen emerged as a reliable post presence toward the end of his freshman season.
He started just one of his first 21 games at Three Rivers and played more than 20 once, in a 128-81 win over Oakland where was was 5 for 10 shooting for 11 points.
He only had one other game where he scored in the double digits during that beginning stretch.
He started his second game as a Raider on Jan. 16 against MSU-West Plains, which was his first of four straight starts and he played between 19-26 minutes in each of those games.
Pippen showed consistency, shooting at least 44 percent in each start with at least five rebounds. He also had a pair of double-doubles against On Point Academy and Link Year Prep.
After the Link Year Prep game, sophomore forward Dominique Alexander broke back into the starting lineup spending a month coming off the bench, and Pippen came off the bench for the final six games of the season.
He scored a season high 15 points twice, against Link Year Prep where he shot 6 for 13 and played 26 minutes, and then again in the Region XVI finale against Mineral Area, where Pippen was 5 for 6 shooting and 5 for 5 on free throws in just 10 minutes of playing time.
“He just came in here and got better every day. We (hurried) his growth up and got a little more out of him his sophomore year,” Bess said.
As a sophomore, Pippen averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in a season that was split in two halves because of a month-long injury.
Pippen opened his sophomore season with a 15-point, seven-rebound performance in Three Rivers’ season opener, and started each of the first 16 games before missing a month because of an injury.
During the opening stretch he scored a season high 25 points against Cincinnati State where he was 11 for 15 shooting, and he had one double-double when he got 18 points and 10 rebounds against Carl Sandburg.
While he was out, Three Rivers was 3 for 3, but after he came back they closed the regular season 7-1, and then beat Mineral Area and Moberly Area to win the Region XVI Tournament.
In the semifinal that the Raiders won by a point, Pippen had a key offensive rebound with 57 seconds left and Three Rivers up by three.
After a timeout, Three Rivers ran down the shot clock before Gabe Grant made a jumper. It was the Raiders’ final field goal and they made enough free throws to hold off the Cardinals.
In Three Rivers’ 85-58 win in the championship, Pippen played 31 minutes off the bench and got 19 points and 13 rebounds on 6 for 7 shooting and 7 for 8 on free throws.
The Raiders then lost 79-75 to Highland (Ill.) for the district championship. Pippen had 12 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench in his final game as a Raider.
During his two years with the team, the Raiders went 48-16.
“Great kid, great momma, and I knew he’d been raised right and he just was a really good player for us,” Bess said.
Pippen continued his career at Southern Illinois, where he started 63 of 65 games over two seasons and averaged 12.4 points, 5.8 rebounds to finish second and third on the team in those categories. He also averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.3 assists while he was there and had a 22.2 player efficiency rating.
He was selected to the third-team All-Missouri Valley Conference.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic