Larry Nance Jr. sees a bright future for his Northwestern-bound brother

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. smiles during his press conference on NBA All-Star Media Day on Feb. 17, 2018 (Serena Yeh/MEDILL).

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES – Larry Nance Jr.’s life is pretty good these days.

He plays alongside LeBron James for his home state’s NBA team. He moved from a team out of the playoff picture to one that, with the addition of him and a few others, looks like title contenders once again.

Nance participated in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest Saturday night, and narrowly missed winning. It’s same event his father, Larry Sr., ushered into basketball popularity with a victory in the inaugural version in 1984. The younger Nance spent countless hours watching clips of it when he was younger.

“For me, that was like Sesame Street,” Larry Jr. said earlier Saturday.

He admits, though, he has one shortcoming compared with another member of his family.

Larry Jr.’s younger brother, Pete, is a superior high school prospect. Pete’s a 6-foot-10, 205-pound hybrid forward and an accomplished scorer who features a 3-point shot, a mid-range game and an ability to score off the dribble. He’s also a strong passer for his position.

“He’s going to be really good,” Larry Jr. said of Pete. “I think he’s 92 in the ESPN100 right now, and that’s strictly because people haven’t been paying attention to him. He’d be higher if they were.”

Pete, a senior at Revere High School in Richfield, Ohio, is the No. 83 player in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports national composite rankings, and the No. 3 player in Ohio. He became Northwestern’s highest-ranked recruit in Chris Collins’ five years as head coach when he chose the Wildcats over Ohio State and Michigan last July.

Asked if Pete ever ribbed his older brother about being the more highly regarded prep player, Larry Jr. smiled.

“There was no debate,” he said. “At that point in our development, I looked like a child compared to him.”

Whatever Pete’s final high school ranking is, it will be higher than his older brother’s was. Larry Jr. was nowhere near top-100 lists, nor was he a high-major prospect. His final college options were Wyoming and James Madison, each a clear level below the group of Big Ten programs that wanted Pete.

Recruiting, though, is a pretty similar process at every level. It is inherently pressure-filled, a process amplified for the son of a former NBA star, no matter the son’s ranking or type of offers. Larry Jr. made sure to relay that message to Pete.

“There are going to be a lot of people that have opinions, but the only opinion that matters is his,” Larry Jr. said. “There are going to be writers or people coming up to him saying, ‘Hey, I think this is the best fit for you,’ or ‘I think this coach will best benefit you’ or all this type of stuff.”

Even though Larry Jr. was not as coveted a player, he navigated the recruiting landscape successfully and found a fit. He averaged 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game in four years at Wyoming, while also picking up two first-team all-conference selections and reaching the NCAA tournament in 2015. His defense and athleticism helped him become a first-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Pete would surely accept those results. And his older brother thinks he has found the right spot to get there.

“I think he got it 100 percent right with Northwestern,” Larry Jr. said. “Chris Collins is terrific. That program is headed in the right direction.”

Photo at top: Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. smiles during his press conference on NBA All-Star Media Day on Feb. 17, 2018 (Serena Yeh/MEDILL).