NBA sons have shorter learning curve

Jamelle McMillan didn’t see what the big deal was.

To him, it was just like any kid going to work with his dad,

hanging out with his co-workers, goofing around with their kids,

going on the occasional business trip.

Difference was, Nate McMillan’s job was playing in the NBA and,

boy, were the kids at school jealous.

”They always would say ‘you’re so lucky’ and made it such a

huge, huge deal,” McMillan said. ”For me, that was dad and those

guys were his friends, his teammates and coaches. That was the norm

for me, not that big of a deal, just everyday life. But most

definitely the kids at school would try to bring cards to get

signed or want to go with me on the weekends.”

McMillan isn’t alone.

Across college basketball, there’s more than two dozen players

with fathers who played in the NBA, from Klay Thompson, son of

Mychal, at Washington State to Michael Jordan’s kid, Marcus, at

Central Florida.

A handful of schools have more than one player with NBA lineage,

too.

At Arizona State, McMillan played alongside freshman Corey

Hawkins, son of former NBA sharpshooter Hersey. Minnesota has Ralph

Sampson III and Austin Hollins, son of Lionel.

Michigan coach John Beilein drew a set of NBA sons on his

roster, with Jordan Dumars (Joe), Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jon Horford

(Tito) all wearing the blue and maize.

Some former NBAers even have more than one kid playing college

ball.

Mychal Thompson, who played 12 seasons with three NBA teams, has

to not just keep track of Klay in the Great Northwest, but oldest

son, Mychel, down the coast at Pepperdine. Paul Pressey has it a

little easier; his sons, Phil and Matt, both play at Missouri.

The fathers have been in basketball battles at the highest

level, yet when it comes to their kids, there’s a lot more

hand-wringing than during their playing days.

”I always get nervous when I watch. My hands start to sweat,”

said the elder Tim Hardaway, who played for seven teams in 13 NBA

seasons. ”I want him to do well but I also want him to learn from

his mistakes. I keep my mouth closed. I just watch the game. I

don’t say nothing no more. It’s fun just watching.”

Of course, just watching doesn’t always work.

They are, after all, fathers and the natural inclination is to

give advice, help their kids out whenever they can. And, being

former professionals in the sport their sons play collegiately,

they have plenty of knowledge to pass down, like a patriarch

teaching the son the complexities of the family business.

”It’s an honor to have him give me advice and everything, but

he’s just like every other dad,” Minnesota’s Austin Hollins said.

”He gives me advice about life, he gives me advice about

basketball. I think that’s a good thing to have.”

There’s also pressure that comes with it.

Following the footsteps of a famous father is tough for any son,

no matter the profession.

In basketball, the expectation is that the son will be just as

good, with exactly the same skill set as the father.

Most of the time, it doesn’t happen. The fathers were among the

best basketball players in the world during their heyday and the

odds of matching that kind of success, much less doing it with the

same style of play, aren’t good.

Still, there are similarities.

Jamelle McMillan is a point guard who gets by on smarts and with

defense, just like his dad. David Stockton is a heady point guard

at Gonzaga, similar to his Hall of Fame father, John. Klay Thompson

is a prolific scorer, as Mychal was at Minnesota, and Jeremiah

Rivers has been a lot like his pops, Doc, as a cerebral guard who

loves to play defense at Indiana.

Though it’s not always an easy path, most of the

follow-dad’s-footsteps players are able to handle the pressure,

having dealt with it pretty much since the first time they picked

up a basketball.

”He didn’t feel that way. He embraces everything,” said Glen

Rice, whose son, Glen Rice Jr., plays at Georgia Tech. ”One of the

things he really tries hard to do is, he understands people are

going to be saying different things trying to compare his game to

mine. He wants to go out and set his own legacy. That’s what I love

about him.”

Carving out an identity is hard in the shadow of greatness, but

the sons of NBA players at least have a head start over other

players trying to make it in college basketball.

Because they grew up around the game, saw it at the highest

level from a behind-the-scenes perspective, they understand details

most people may never know. Just by being around the players,

seeing the practices and workouts, watching the intensity and

listening to the instruction of the coaches, they pick up all the

little details almost through osmosis.

To start with that kind of foundation and build from there –

with a father who’s a professional as a guide, no less – well,

that’s a pretty good head start.

”It’s definitely an advantage that we’re fortunate enough to

have,” McMillan said. ”Ninety-five, 96 percent of the people

aren’t lucky enough to be in the situation we’ve been placed in. We

look to take advantage of it in any way possible as far as using

what they know and trying to incorporate it into what you do. You

try to implement things any way you can. It’s the best.”

AP Sports Writers Jim O’Connell in New York, Dan Gelston in

Philadelphia, Cliff Brunt and Mike Marot in Indianapolis

contributed to this story.