AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Tim Hardaway Jr. can take the questions in stride at this point.
Any time Michigan is in the national spotlight, his familiar name stands out – and the queries about his father seem inevitable.
“It was hard just to try to follow his footsteps, and you try not to worry about it,” Hardaway said. “You try to leave a legacy of your own. It takes a long time to do that.”
Hardaway is one of three Michigan players with fathers who were in the NBA, and the Wolverines aren’t the only team with some famous names in this NCAA tournament. John Stockton’s son plays for Gonzaga, and Danny Manning’s is with Kansas. Several of college basketball’s top performers are from athletic families, and some of these players have already conjured memories of generations past.
Hardaway scored 21 points to lead Michigan over South Dakota State on Thursday night, and he had plenty of help from Glenn Robinson III, who added 21 of his own for the Wolverines. Hardaway’s father, of course, was a standout in the NBA, and Robinson’s was a star at Purdue who scored 44 points in a win over Kansas during the 1994 NCAA tournament.
The Wolverines also have a backup forward named Jon Horford. His brother Al plays for the Atlanta Hawks, and his father Tito made it to the pros too. It’s a coincidence that Hardaway, Robinson and Horford all ended up at Michigan, but coach John Beilein isn’t shying away from the story line.
“We really feel good about it because their dads do know basketball,” Beilein said. “We think that’s always been a feather in our cap to have families. It’s not just the dad involved with all these. There’s a strong mother involved with every single one of these young men, and they’ve had a big part to do with their success as well.”
David Stockton has played in all 34 games this season for Gonzaga, the same school his father attended. Kansas actually has three familiar names: Tyler Self, Evan Manning and Niko Roberts.
Self is the freshman son of Kansas coach Bill Self, and Manning is the freshman son of Danny Manning, who led the Jayhawks to the 1988 national title. Roberts, a junior guard, is the son of Norm Roberts, the former St. John’s coach who is in his second year on Self’s staff with the Jayhawks. All three play sparingly off the bench.
Don’t think for a moment that they receive any sort of favoritism just because of the name on the back of their jerseys.
“Coaches want everybody to play, but obviously it’s not equal opportunity,” Bill Self said. “My wife even understands it, so it’s not a big deal.”
Then there’s Montana coach Wayne Tinkle, whose Grizzlies lost to Syracuse on Thursday night in San Jose, Calif. At least the location was convenient. Tinkle’s daughter Joslyn plays at Stanford and took a break from preparing for her own NCAA tournament to watch her dad coach.
Joslyn Tinkle watched the game with her brother, mother and two teammates. Her younger sister, Elle, was back at Gonzaga preparing for her NCAA tournament opener on Saturday against Iowa State.
“I was actually in the midst of finishing my take-home final and watching the selection show. I was hoping Montana would pop up in the San Jose bracket,” Joslyn Tinkle said. “As soon as it happened the whole family got excited. It’s really fun to be able to hang out with the family, except my sister. Maybe we’ll get to see her next week. It’s really awesome.”
The Tinkle family was juggling two different NCAA tournaments, but the Larkin family extends across two sports. Miami guard Shane Larkin is the son of former Cincinnati Reds star Barry Larkin.
The Hall of Fame shortstop conceded he was “crushed” when his son gave up baseball, but Shane is making quite an impact on the basketball court, leaving a mark of his own.
That’s what all these young athletes are trying to do. They may not be going about it the exact same way their parents did, but they’re trying to enjoy their own competitive experiences – with the support of family members who have already done it, like Hardaway’s father.
“He just tells me to go out there, have fun, just play my hardest,” Hardaway said. “And he’s behind me 100 percent.”