Larry Nance Jr. didn’t have the storied basketball career that his namesake would lead many to believe. Nance’s father, who shares his namesake, was a prolific forward for the Phoenix Suns who wowed basketball fans with incredible athletic ability and freakish talent. His junior did not have things come so easy. In high school, Nance Jr. was relegated to the backup spot on the JV team. At just 6 feet, 130 pounds, he wondered if he would ever grow to size up with the rest of his family, who all towered over him during his younger years. Nance remembers being lethargic, coming home from school at 3 P.M., going to sleep, and not waking up until 7 A.M. He barely wanted to move, let alone play basketball. That all changed on one fateful day his sophomore year.
Nance’s mother suspected an iron deficiency in her son, leading them to the nearby Cleveland Clinic for diagnosis. Here, the doctors figured out that Larry Nance Jr. suffered from Crohn’s disease, a debilitating gastrointestinal condition that caused his body to be covered in ulcers. Nance Jr. began treatment immediately, receiving infusions of the medication Remicade to help him work back to a healthy state.
The results were staggering. Within one week, 50% of the ulcers were gone. What’s more, Nance gained 14 pounds over the first month. Even more impressive, he shot up seven inches over the next 14 months. Larry Nance Jr. went from a small string bean to a gangly version of Kevin Durant in just over a year. While the growth was painful, and uneven at first, it helped Larry Nance Jr. realize his basketball potential.
With his growth and newfound confidence following his Crohn’s diagnosis, Larry Nance Jr. grew into a force on the basketball court. Playing for a local AAU squad before his senior year of high school, his first year of AAU ball, Nance was discovered by Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt, who knew his father from his days at Clemson. Shyatt saw the intangibles in Nance; a player untainted by AAU coaches, shoe companies and agents, a man who just wanted to play basketball. With just one recruiting visit, the two found that it was a perfect match, and Larry Nance Jr. was on his way to Wyoming.
To go from JV backup as a sophomore to Division I recruit as a senior would be quite the leap for any player, but that was hardly good enough for Larry Nance Jr. He improved every year at Wyoming, earning preseason Mountain West Player of the Year and First Team All-MWC honors. Nance was renowned for his defense, notching 1.7 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, adding to his already impressive clip of 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds as a senior. He lead Wyoming to a MWC championship and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over a decade.
With a decorated Wyoming career under his belt, Larry Nance Jr. has put his high school days far in his rearview mirror, and has set his sights on the NBA Draft. He has already worked out for eight NBA teams and some projections even have him slipping into the end of the first round. Nance has no doubt that his name will be called on June 25th, which is a far cry from his days as a lethargic high schooler sleeping 16 hours per day. For a man with an NBA father and a family full of athletes, Larry Nance Jr. has waited his entire life to be considered good at basketball. That wait may finally be over.