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.

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