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Kavion Pippen not consumed with trying to live up to family name

  • SIU forward Kavion Pippen has been a bright spot for Southern early in the season. He says he's not worried about living up to the family name made famous by NBA legend Scottie Pippen.

    SIU forward Kavion Pippen has been a bright spot for Southern early in the season. He says he's not worried about living up to the family name made famous by NBA legend Scottie Pippen.
    Courtesy of Saluki Media Service

Submitted by Tom Weber, Saluki Media Service
Posted on 12/27/2017, 1:00 AM

Saluki center Kavion Pippen remembers how excited he used to get as a child, looking forward to family reunions in Hamburg, Arkansas. That's what happens when you love basketball and you know the guest list includes one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

Most Southern Illinois basketball fans are aware by now that Kavion is the nephew of former Chicago Bulls superstar Scottie Pippen. Perhaps the first hint, in addition to his last name, was his selection of jersey No. 33.

So what was it like hanging out with a guy who won six NBA titles and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History?

"He was the center of attention at family get-togethers, the guy I looked up to, the guy I wanted to be around when he came around," Kavion recalled. "Over the years, he's given me a lot of pointers on the game, advice about school and how to stay focused."

Scottie isn't the only Pippen who has played a big part in Kavion's basketball career. His cousin, Taylor Pippen, is also a big influence and one of the main reasons why he chose Southern Illinois. Taylor was an All-American volleyball player for SIU from 2012-15 and is considered one of the greatest players of all-time at Southern.

When researching his college options at Three Rivers Community College last year, Kavion narrowed the field to SIU, East Carolina, UALR and SEMO. He was impressed by how much his cousin seemed to enjoy her time in Carbondale.

"She had a lot of influence on my coming here," Pippen acknowledged. "We're very close. She told me about how nice the campus is and the people in the community. I found out for myself on my visit and really liked it."

To say Pippen has been the surprise player of the season so far for the Salukis would be an understatement. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound pivot was originally penciled in as a backup for senior Thik Bol, but when Bol hurt his knee during the preseason, Pippen was thrust into the lineup. For a guy who averaged 10.5 points as a part-time starter a year ago, he has certainly not looked out of place as a starter for a Division I team. In fact, he's been among SIU's most productive players, scoring double figures in his first seven games, leading the team in scoring, shot attempts, rebounding and blocked shots.

"It was a lot of pressure, but I was ready for it," he said. "I give credit to my coaches and my players -- they got me ready."

One coach who took notice was Three Rivers assistant and fellow Arkansas native Bryan Sherrer. He convinced Pippen to come refine his game at the juco level and perhaps eventually draw Division I interest. Pippen continued to grow while attending the Poplar Bluff, Mo. school, adding two more inches and 20 pounds to his frame. He scored just 5.3 points per game as a freshman but oozed potential.

"During my freshman year of juco, that's when I really realized that I had to take this seriously and just come out and perfect my craft," he said.

During the summer of 2016, he caught the eye of Saluki assistant coach Anthony Beane, and the Salukis made him their top recruiting priority. He committed in April of 2017 and has taken the Division I college basketball world by storm.

Perhaps he's adjusted so well because he's learned to live in the shadow of his last name.

"I try not let they hype of being Scottie Pippen's nephew affect me," he said. "I just try to play my role and play my game."

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