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Jaden Springer follows in father’s footsteps as Sixers draft pick

Gary Springer was drafted by the Sixers in the sixth round in 1984 but never played for the team because of injuries.

Tennessee's Jaden Springer, in action against Kentucky on Feb. 6, 2021.
Tennessee's Jaden Springer, in action against Kentucky on Feb. 6, 2021.Read moreJames Crisp / AP

LAS VEGAS — Initially, Jaden Springer didn’t think about it.

All he thought about shortly after 11 p.m. on July 29 was being drafted by the 76ers. Just hearing NBA commissioner Adam Silver announce his name as a first-round pick was a dream come true.

“Man, I’m jumping out and down,” Springer said. “I’m excited. I’m with my family. Then I remembered my dad had told me, ‘That’s where I was drafted.’ I was ‘Aw man.’ That was a little special moment me and him had.

“He’s excited right now.”

No one can discount the excitement that Gary Springer feels knowing his son was drafted by the squad that selected him in the sixth round in 1984.

Like Jaden, the thought didn’t initially cross Gary’s mind.

“When it first happened, I’m just glad that the team picked him and it was Doc,” Gary said. “I didn’t even think about Philly. I just thought about Doc Rivers, and the coaching staff they have with Sam Cassell, things like that. I just thought about that at first, and then everybody said it and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.’

“But that wasn’t it. It was the fact that the Philadelphia 76ers believed in him. And the fact that the good team that they have — the coaching staff — that he’s going to be a part of.”

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Because of a nagging knee injury, Gary never played for the Sixers. However, he does have a tie to the team in Rivers. The two have a friendship that goes back to their days as two of the nation’s top high school players in the Class of 1980.

Rivers, Springer, Derek Harper, and Sam Perkins were all notable players in both the 1980 McDonald’s All American Game and as first-team Parade All-Americans.

Gary’s accolades are well known in the Springer household. However, he’ll tell you he’s not the story line.

“It’s about him,” Gary said of Jaden. “Everything right now for me is about him. Some people want to talk about me. That’s cool. That’s good. Sometimes that makes good news, good writing. But to me, it’s about him.

“I’m just excited, happy, elated that he has achieved one of his dreams. For me, as a dad to see your kid achieve his dreams is huge, because I’m about my kids. My kids are everything for me.”

But Gary didn’t pressure Jaden to follow in his footsteps.

Jaden watched games on his own and played in the park daily with kids in his neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C. He would be in there until sundown.

“They never told me do anything,” Jaden said of father and older brothers, Gary Jr. and Jordan, who both played college basketball. “Like my little brother [Jamil], he doesn’t play. They didn’t push him to do anything. He just doesn’t have love for it.”

For Jaden, the love for basketball came on its own.

So after spending a lot of time in the park and excelling in rec leagues, he told his father about his desire to become a basketball player.

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That’s when Gary helped to mold the 18-year-old into the player he is today. He let Jaden know that he wouldn’t be easy on him. Gary also told him the journey wouldn’t be easy.

“I told him it was going to take a lot of hard work if this is something that you really wanted to do,” Gary Springer said. “He agreed to it, and he held his part all the way through.”

They bumped heads on occasion, but Jaden always put the work in.

As early as the age 9, Jaden’s talent level was far superior to kids in his age group. So he played on and excelled against older age-group teams.

No one was surprised that, despite being one of the youngest players, Jaden ended his prep career as the 16th-ranked player in the Class of 2020, according to both and 247Sports. Jaden, who doesn’t turn 19 until Sept. 25, was one of the youngest players in his draft class. The 6-foot-4 guard spent one season at Tennessee before turning pro.

“My whole life I have always been the youngest,” Springer said. “I never really looked at my age as a disadvantage or nothing like that.”

The Sixers feel the same way. As a result, Gary and Jaden Springer were drafted by the same team 37 years apart.