Daily Egyptian

Meet dominating Saluki center Kavion Pippen

Junior+center+Kevion+Pippen+pushes+against+cougar+defense+to+lay+up+the+ball+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+29%2C+2017%2C+during+the+Salukis%E2%80%99+86-59+win+against+SIUE+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Dylan+Nelson+%7C+%40Dylan_Nelson99%29
Junior center Kevion Pippen pushes against cougar defense to lay up the ball Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, during the Salukis’ 86-59 win against SIUE at SIU Arena. (Dylan Nelson | @Dylan_Nelson99)

Junior center Kevion Pippen pushes against cougar defense to lay up the ball Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, during the Salukis’ 86-59 win against SIUE at SIU Arena. (Dylan Nelson | @Dylan_Nelson99)

Dylan Nelson

Dylan Nelson

Junior center Kevion Pippen pushes against cougar defense to lay up the ball Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, during the Salukis’ 86-59 win against SIUE at SIU Arena. (Dylan Nelson | @Dylan_Nelson99)

By Ryan Demer

Ever since 6-foot-10-inch, 240-pound junior center Kavion Pippen stepped on the court in SIU maroon, he has dominated Division I competition in all facets of the game.

As the Salukis’ leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, Pippen transitioned well to the D-I style of play, as compared to his previous two seasons at the junior college level.

“I was playing against a lot of people smaller than me,” the Saluki center said. “But in Division I every person seems to be athletic and near my height and size.”

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At Three Rivers Community College, Pippen averaged 11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and two blocks per game for the Pirates.
So far this season, his stats rank with some of the best players in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Amongst MVC leaders, Pippen is first in blocks per game (2.3), eighth in rebounds per game (6.7), seventh in field-goal percentage (.563) and eighth in points per game (13.8).

“Just working hard has mostly factored into my success,” Pippen said. “That, along with taking advice from the coaches and my teammates.”

Pippen grew up in Hamburg, Arkansas and attended Hamburg High School, the same school that sculpted his uncle and NBA great — Scottie Pippen.

In his senior year, Pippen was listed at 6-foot-5. He said that he was not heavily recruited because he was undersized the center position.

However, he grew to 6-foot-8 and weighed 210 pounds when his collegiate career began at TRCC. With much success at the JUCO level,  he received the attention of Division I schools and coaches, including SIU head coach Barry Hinson.

Pippen loved the basketball tradition SIU had to offer and it did not hurt that his cousin, Taylor Pippen, attended Southern and ranks amongst the all-time greats in Saluki volleyball.

“It’s a great atmosphere and I got a good vibe from the players and coaches,” Pippen said. “The history in the program is just something I wanted to experience.”

Before he joined SIU, Pippen grew an additional two inches. He also worked to add extra weight in muscle to complement his gained height.

“Putting on the extra weight has helped me out a lot in D-I basketball,” he added. “It helped me turn into a more physical player than I was in JUCO.”

In addition to his extensive training and superb play, Pippen was prepared to put his mark on D-I basketball and carry on a strong pedigree of basketball previously set by his family members.

His cousin, Quinton Pippen, played at Chicago State for two seasons and was the team’s leading scorer in his senior season. Another cousin, William Pippen, played for Middle Tennessee State for two seasons, as well.

With the amount of talent and experience in Pippen’s lineage, he said that his cousins and uncle Scottie are his biggest mentors in the sport.

“They give me pointers on the game in general, like having a winner’s mindset,” Pippen said. “They tell me to go into every game with confidence and to continue to work hard.”

Of all players in the NBA, Pippen tries to model his game after New Orleans Pelicans’ superstar center Demarcus Cousins.

To reach that level, he said that he must improve in all aspects of the game including shooting, defensive movement, rebounding and dribbling.

Pippen has the full support of the rest of his team and coaching staff to reach that level, as they all speak of him in high regard.

“He’s a sponge, he’s learning, he’s getting better,” Hinson said. “I’m telling you, he has a chance to be a special player.”

After being thrust into a starting role when senior center Thik Bol was sidelined with a knee injury, Pippen emerged as the anchor of the Saluki lineup and the focal point of the offense.

The guards feed him the basketball and work around his play in the post. Because his presence requires a double team, there is almost always an open shot on the floor.

Pippen also has recorded two buzzer beater tip-ins at halftime this season, which helps the team tremendously as they head to the locker room. His awareness of offensive rebound opportunities is a major part of his scoring game.

“I just assume every shot is a miss,” Pippen said. “By doing that, I try to work myself in the right position for a tip in.”

On the court, Pippen’s quickness separates him from opposing centers. His athleticism has factored into both sides of the ball this season.

“I know what Kavion can do, he can definitely be an all-league player,” senior forward Jonathan Wiley said. “Once he gets his motor going, there’s a lot more that he can unleash.”

Pippen is humbled, however, as he continues to embrace what the coaches and teammates are helping him with on the court. When he does reach his full potential, the NCAA will take notice, because Pippen and the Salukis are on a mission this season.

“Our goal is to not be an average team this year and win the MVC,” he said. “We want to go to the tournament and we want to win.”

Sports writer Ryan Demer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanDemer_DE 
To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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