LAURINBURG — Former professional basketball player Lorinza “Junior” Harrington has traveled the world, playing for three NBA franchises and a handful of teams overseas.
But he’s always considered Scotland County home.
Harrington, a Wagram native who currently resides in Charlotte, is visiting Laurinburg this summer to host a series of basketball camps and clinics, giving kids and young adults in the region a chance to showcase their skills on the hardwood.
Junior played many sports growing up, but attributed his passion for hoops to his brother, Derek, and his father, Lorinza Sr.
Harrington attended Scotland High School from 1994-1998, playing on the ninth grade and junior varsity teams before joining the varsity squad for his junior and senior years. During his senior campaign, Harrington, along with teammates Frank Adams and Eddie Monroe, earned all-Southeastern Conference honors and then-coach Mike Everette was tabbed the SEC Coach of the Year.
“We had really good teams and everyone on the team was close, and a lot of the guys hung out,” he said. “It made it even more fun when you were winning and everybody on the team was friends and got along well. We really didn’t feel like we had any stars on the team — it was just everybody out there playing and having fun and playing hard.”
The Wagram product continued his education and basketball career at Wingate University, graduating in 2002.
Harrington began his professional career as a free agent after going unselected in the NBA Draft. He was invited to summer league events, performing well enough to receive a training camp offer from the Denver Nuggets.
“For 30 days you have to be focused and you have to block everything else out,” Harrington. “You go out there and you’re tired and you have to figure out how you’re going to get your body ready for the next day. At the same time, you have to make a team so it was definitely hard but it was worth it also.”
He earned a roster spot after the 30-day tryout window, and went on to appear in all 82 of the team’s regular season games. Harrington averaged 5.1 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds while playing 24.4 minutes per game in his inaugural season. While starting 51 games, he had to the chance to square off against some of the sport’s greats.
“Looking back, it all went by really fast,” Harrington said. “At the time you really don’t enjoy it like you should because you’re playing and competing, but you understand the blessings. I got to play against Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Gary Payton and Karl Malone — guys who are Hall of Famers and who I had grew up watching. I definitely gained a lot more respect for certain players my rookie year.”
There were also physical and mental hurdles to be overcome.
“For me, I was coming from a Division II school so I wasn’t really used to seeing 7-footers and 6’10” and 6’11” when I had to go down the lane so that was a little bit of an adjustment,” Harrington said. “They do a lot of scouting on each player and really try to exploit your weaknesses. When you get to that level, I realized it’s more your mental approach to the game as it is about what you can do.”
Harrington played 29 games for the New Orleans Hornets in 2004-2005, then suited up for 29 more games with the Memphis Grizzles in the 2006-2007 season. He finished his NBA career having appeared in 140 games, averaging 5.2 points, 3.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest while posting a 1.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
In between NBA appearances, Harrington signed with a number of professional European clubs. Lacing up his sneakers for teams in countries like Spain, Russia, Ukraine and Slovenia, Harrington visited places and experienced cultures he’d only read or heard about.
“I never imagined seeing stuff like that,” he said. “That’s the stuff you see in history books.”
Harrington completed his playing career last year after serving a stint on a South American squad. His professional basketball days over at age 34, Harrington is focusing on the next phase of his career. He has created a program titled “Student Athletes in Training” and beginning Thursday, he is bringing athletic conditioning classes and basketball skill clinics to the area.
Set to take place at the Unionville Recreation Center at 19400 Blakely Road, the condition classes, which are geared towards sixth graders and up, will take place Thursday, Saturday, June 18, 22, 24, 26, and 29.
The basketball training clinics, which will last one hour and are available for one, three or seven sessions, are meant for kids ages 8-18. On June 30, former University of North Carolina star point guard Ed Cota will help Harrington lead a two-hour clinic that focuses on offensive skills, ball-handling and passing.
Harrington is also hosting a three-day basketball camp beginning next Monday and ending next Wednesday that will cost $60. It will include T-shirts, lunch and prizes.
Harrington said returning to the community he grew up in and giving back to the youth motivated him to create the camps.
“We do camps and training with kids and teach them the right way to play game,” he said. “We just want to give the kids an opportunity. If you want to come be part of it, it’s here for you … . I just wanted to come back and do my part and give the kids an option to do something.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.