Former Windy City Bulls making noise with NBA Bulls
JaKarr Sampson knows a little something about following in the footsteps of a legend.
He attended LeBron James' alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Sampson is the first player from that school to reach the NBA since James.
"Especially when he played in Cleveland, he was back at the school all the time, open gyms. He'd have cookouts for the guys to come over," Sampson said. "He definitely was always around. We always saw his face."
James hasn't reached out to ask Sampson to join him next season on the Lakers. Or maybe he has and we just don't know about it yet.
But Sampson has done a nice job in two games since signing with the Bulls. And in a way, he followed a local legend, joining the Bulls a few days after Windy City Bulls teammate Walt Lemon Jr.
In Wednesday's 115-114 victory at Washington, the two former G-League players were the two leading scorers. Lemon had 24 points, while Sampson added 18. Sampson gave credit Thursday to Windy City Bulls coach Charlie Henry.
"His skill development, he was big for us," Sampson said. "He instilled confidence in us. He really helped my 3-point shot a lot, taking it and shooting it with confidence. Shout out to Charlie. You can tell what he's been doing, just from me and Walt."
Lemon got the call with the game on the line. He finished a driving flip shot with 30 seconds left, then drew a foul and hit the winning free throws with 1.8 seconds on the clock.
"When most guys get called up, they don't really get that opportunity to play and if they do get the opportunity, maybe it's 8, 9 minutes," Lemon said. "The fact that coach is playing me 30 minutes a game and trusting me to close a game out is a huge confidence boost to me and is definitely a blessing to be a part of."
Sampson has a decent history in the NBA, playing in 171 career games. Moat of those came with Philadelphia during "The Process" years. He also played for Sacramento and got dunked on by Zach LaVine last season.
Sampson averaged 20 points in the G-League this season, so he's offense is showing progress.
"For sure, I feel like my offense is more polished," he said. "I know my role in the league offensively. I've always been known as a defender and high-energy guy, but I've been working on my offense and I feel like it's showing."
Even though the Bulls have nothing at stake in the final three games of the season, the addition of Lemon and Sampson has brought a boost of energy. And NBA call-ups can change the lives of guys who are on the cusp of breaking through.
"I can't say it enough," Lemon said. "Me putting on a Bulls jersey, coach hollering at me every day in practice, me interacting with the team, me playing on NBA floors, me traveling like an NBA player -- it's all a good feeling. I was the leading scorer in an NBA game and I hit the free throw to win the game. That's something I'm never going to forget. I'm definitely going to cherish that."