Justin Harper’s decision to play overseas with Strasbourg IG in France’s top pro league appears to have paid off.
On Friday night, Harper played his final regular-season game in France. SIG lost 79-70, but Harper scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting and collected five rebounds.
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The biggest risk — that he’d suffer an injury before he signed an NBA contract — never materialized. In nine games for SIG, he averaged 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He also shot 45.8 percent from the field, including 38.6 percent from 3-point range.
“I like the fact that he continued to play,” Magic General Manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel.
“I like his numbers coming out of France. I think playing in France has done him some good to get out of one system [in college] and go into another system [in the pros] and realize that you can play pro basketball regardless of the level. I think that’s what’s important for him. But I’ll be happy to get him back and to get all of our guys back on the floor as soon as we possibly can.”
Harper is returning to the United States this weekend and expects to arrive in Orlando before training camp begins Dec. 9.
The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Harper early in the second round of June’s draft. The Magic then traded two future second-round picks to the Cavs in exchange for Harper’s draft rights.
Harper should be in basketball shape when camp begins.
As he told us in the second overseas diary entry he produced for the Sentinel, his team in France holds two-a-day practices several times a week even during the regular season.
So he should have a leg up on everyone else — even if his Magic teammates have worked out hard on their own over the last five months.
Magic officials have said that Harper’s playing time will depend on how he plays.
That said, both forward positions are filled right now with veterans.