INDIANAPOLIS — There is no way for Scotty Pippen Jr. to avoid it. As the Vanderbilt star travels the country doing workouts ahead of the NBA Draft on June 23, someone always has a story about his Hall-of-Fame father.
Sharing the same name simply enhances it, even if Pippen Sr. spells his name “Scottie.”
“Both of our names are originally with a ‘Y,'” Pippen Jr. said. “My dad’s name is with a ‘Y’ on his birth certificate, but he changed it to sign signatures. We’re both ‘Y,’ though.”
Pippen Jr. laughed while explaining the variations in their name following a workout for the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, but regardless of the letters, the 21-year-old considers it an honor to carry the name of “a legend.”
Pippen Sr. was a six-time NBA champion for the Chicago Bulls, starring alongside Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the greatest player of all time. However, despite what his father accomplished, the younger Pippen knows a familiar name won’t guarantee him anything, especially considering how much they differ.
“He’s 6-8,” Pippen Jr. said of his father, “I’m (6-1). It’s a totally different era of basketball.
“I’m my own player.”
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Pippen Jr. was joined Wednesday by Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard, Wyoming’s Drake Jeffries, Texas A&M’s Quenton Jackson, Australia’s Luke Travers and Gabriele Procida of Italy’s Fortitudo Bologna. All of them had at least three inches on Pippen Jr., and for a chance to play in the NBA, he’ll have to show he can be productive despite his height, just like he did at Vanderbilt.
“I went to the worst team in the SEC, a team that was 0-18, didn’t win a game (in 2018-19), so it was a rough beginning when I first got there,” Pippen Jr. said. “But I think that was the perfect place for me to be. It helped me be hungry, it helped me work harder.”
Pippen Jr. started 89 of 90 games during three seasons at Vanderbilt. The Commodores won six games total during his first two seasons, but in his junior campaign in 2021-22, they turned a corner. Pippen averaged 20.4 points, his second straight season of more than 20 points per game, to lead the program to seven victories, more than its previous three seasons combined.
After earning back-to-back first-team All-SEC selections in 2021 and 2022, Pippen Jr. firmly believes he belongs in the NBA, and his father isn’t his only connection with the next level.
Pacers guard Duane Washington Jr. and Pippen Jr. were teammates at powerhouse California high school Sierra Canyon and won a state championship together in 2018.
“His dad and my dad knew each other, so we were always close,” Pippen Jr. said. “Even last year during pre-draft when I was testing the waters (before returning to Vanderbilt), we worked out every day together, we lifted every day together, we hung out every night, so me and Duane are really close.”
Even with their tight bond, Pippen Jr. still didn’t give Washington a heads up he’d be working out for the Pacers, deciding instead to talk to him after. It’s just not in his nature to ask for favors or preferential treatment, and he’s used that workmanlike mindset to steer him throughout an uncertain draft process.
Unlike his father, who was the No. 5 pick in the 1987 draft, Pippen Jr. is hoping to sneak into the second round. He said he has worked out for 10 teams so far and opted not to disclose which ones. But in addition to the Pacers, who have the Nos. 6, 31 and 58 picks, he’s also been evaluated by the Hawks, Lakers, Nets and Wizards, per HoopsHype.
“Everyone knows I can score the ball,” Pippen Jr. said. “I did that in the SEC, which is one of the highest college levels. So I’m just going out here showing I can compete on both ends, defensively and offensively.”
Pippen Jr. has talked to his dad, one of the best two-way players ever, every day as the draft creeps closer. But if he doesn’t hear his name called next week, he won’t be discouraged. Last season, Washington went undrafted before earning a call up from the G League and a multiyear deal with the Pacers.
Pippen Jr. is confident he could forge a similar path as he strives to build his own legacy.
“I’ve been proving myself my whole life,” Pippen Jr. said. “So I think the journey is just gonna continue.”
Follow IndyStar Pacers Insider James Boyd on Twitter at @RomeovilleKid.