Blue Chips off the Old Block

As the saying goes, like father, like son.

A handful of players in the 2007 NCAA men's basketball tournament will wear jerseys bearing familiar names, as they are the offspring of professional athletes of some acclaim.

And it's not just basketball players begetting basketball players. Among the retired athletes to look for in the stands, sweating out their sons' performances as the tourney opens, are a former international tennis star and big league slugger.

"It's in the genes, obviously," said Tracy Hackler, associate publisher for Beckett Media, which in 1999 published a book featuring famous professional athlete father-and-son pairs.

But Hackler quickly added that on top of nature's boost these players also enjoy a nurturing that prepares the teens more effectively for performing on a national stage.

"You see a lot of kids that come up in that heritage, and they're exposed to all of these things tied to being a big-time athlete," Hackler said. "Even if the parents don't know they're teaching them, they're teaching them."

There certainly are enough examples to fill a book. A father handing down his profession to his son, whatever it may be, is as old as mankind.

Many Examples in Many Sports

Professional athlete father-and-son royalty includes families like the Griffeys in baseball, the Mannings in football, the Earnhardts in racing and the Hulls in hockey.

In the current college game, much has already been made of Joakim Noah, a colorful, headliner talent on the defending champion and No. 1 overall seeded University of Florida Gators.

His father, Yannick Noah, won the French Open in 1983 and played on the Davis Cup team for his native France for 11 years.

Noah the tennis player wore signature dreadlocks, went on to popular music success and himself was the son of a Cameroonian professional soccer player.

Bill McNally, who coached the younger Noah for two years at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., said that many of the strengths needed to excel in an individual sport like tennis are reflected in Joakim's team basketball game.

"It really has helped Joakim," McNally said of the father's athletic influence.

"He has a certain professional approach to the way he handles his body and his preparation, whereas with other kids you may not see that much," McNally said.

Florida Loaded With NBA Offspring

Likely joining Yannick Noah in the stands to watch their sons try to bully Florida toward a repeat championship will be a pair of retired NBA big men: Sidney Green and Tito Horford.

Tito, a 7-footer, lasted just three seasons in the pros. At 6 feet 10 inches, son Al Horford may not be quite as tall, but he's starting to get some attention, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 boards a game.

Fellow junior Taurean Green also averages 13 points a game as a Gator guard, enough to make his NBA journeyman father, Sidney, proud.

Thursday's opening round matchup in Buffalo, N.Y., between 13-seed Davidson College and the fourth-seeded University of Maryland Terrapins will feature two names with a familiar ring.

Darryl Strawberry, the lanky slugger with a big leg kick who made seven consecutive all-star teams as a New York Met, is the father of D.J. Strawberry, an emergent junior guard for the Terps. The younger Strawberry, who stopped using his given name Darryl Strawberry Jr. years ago after it became a nuisance, actually plays the hardwood an inch shorter than his father took the batter's box.

D.J. is known as a high-energy guard who plays aggressive, baseline-to-baseline defense. His scoring has grown throughout his three solid years in College Park, Md. In his personal life, D.J. has welcomed his father back into his life after Darryl Strawberry's very public battle with drug addiction.

Across the court on the underdog Davidson College sideline will be longtime NBA three-point threat and the league's 1993-1994 Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, Dell Curry.

Now director of player programs for the Charlotte Bobcats, Dell's son Stephen Curry is Davidson's standout guard, earning the scoring title in the Southern Conference after averaging more than 21 points a game.

The Davidson athletic Web site describes Stephen Curry as possessing a tremendous "basketball IQ," something he can likely chalk up at least in part to his NBA executive father.

Georgetown's Second Generation

Finally, there's a resurgent Georgetown Hoya team, where you'll find a player with both a famous name and a familiar jersey number.

Patrick Ewing Jr., No. 33 on this year's Hoya squad, is son of Patrick Ewing Sr., a Georgetown and New York Knick legend whose basketball accolades include a pair of Olympic Gold Medals and expected induction into the sport's hall of fame.

Ewing Sr. was a dominant big man for the Hoyas in the early 1980s and helped them to a national championship in 1984 -- a player whose raw talent pushed the NBA to adopt a lottery system after teams started to tank games with the hope of landing the prospect.

His son, known affectionately as "Little Patrick," shares a keen resemblance to his father in his facial features, but is nearly half a foot shorter than dad and more role player than superstar.

Little Patrick transferred to Georgetown after two unfulfilling seasons at Indiana University, a move inspired in part by another notable son: current Georgetown coach John Thomspon III.

Thompson III is son of John Thompson Jr., the coach that led Ewing and the high-powered Hoyas to three consecutive Final Fours and the '84 championship.

Georgetown freshman guard Jeremiah Rivers, meanwhile, is son of Doc Rivers, the current head coach of the Boston Celtics. The elder Rivers had a decent NBA career himself, playing floor general for more than a decade for four different clubs, including several years alongside Patrick Ewing on the Knicks.

Son Jeremiah may only be averaging a little more than 10 minutes a game, but his NBA coach dad has said repeatedly in interviews that he keeps his nose out of the Georgetown staff's business.

University of Florida athletic spokesman Steve McClain said that's also the case with the Gator trio of dads.

"These are not the parents who are knocking on the door saying, 'My kid needs more playing time,'" McClain said. "Each of them has had their own success, so they have an appreciation for what kids need to succeed."

Hackler, the book publisher, said it was no surprise to hear that these famous fathers tend to be hands-off when it comes to coaching their sons.

"The parents aren't overbearing because they've lived it and they know the strains," Hackler said. "The people who are overbearing see their kids as a way to get rich, and professional athletes don't really need that."

One thing is for certain: The NCAA loves the father-and-son duos featured this year, with a spokesman calling the relationships one of the great story lines of the annual tournament.

And it's one that we'll likely see promoted again and again during the next three weeks… and maybe even longer than that.

Remember Michael Jordan? His Airness has two sons currently playing high school ball -- including one who graduates this year.