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