UC Davis basketball players Tyrell Corbin, Corey Hawkins and Tyler Les grew up like a lot of boys, playing basketball with their dads.
They learned how to pull up for a jumper, juke a defender out of his shoes or to stand up to pressure. Of course, they had one advantage that most children don’t have, an NBA dad.
“To me it was just normal,” said Hawkins, whose dad, Hersey, played more than a decade in the NBA. “Everyone else thought it was cool. To me, he was just … Dad.”
Corbin agreed, but added there were extra perks. His dad is Tyrone Corbin, who played in the NBA from 1985 to 2001 and took over as head coach of the Utah Jazz last season.
“He retired officially in 2001 when I was 6 or 7,” said Tyrell, a 6-foot freshman guard. “I really only remember Atlanta (’96-’99), but also his last year in Toronto because I really liked Vince Carter.
“Obviously you have guys you look up to. I was just blessed with the opportunity to meet the guys because of my dad being an NBA player.”
Aside from meeting sports idols and traveling, NBA dads gave the trio an all-access behind-the-scenes pass to the inner workings of what it takes to be successful on the hardwood.
Tyler was 4 years old when his dad, Jim Les, retired after eight years in the NBA, including several successful tours with the Sacramento Kings from 1990-94. Tyler was able to see some games but doesn’t remember a lot. However, he’s seen game films and it’s affected his play.
“I try to emulate his game a little bit,” said Tyler, a 6-2 guard. “I think he was a little quicker and better ball handler. He really hustled. His play, I really respect that, and that’s what I try to emulate.”
Tyler Les is averaging 8.7 points and 1.7 assists per game. In Jim Les’ standout ’90-’91 season with the Kings, he averaged 7.2 ppg and 5.4 apg.
“He’s a lot better than I was,” said Jim Les, who is in his first year coaching the Aggies. “His mom said she’s taken back sometimes by his mannerisms on the floor. He does a lot of what I used to do, and the way he carries himself. I retired when he was at a young age, so it’s not so much from watching me. Some of those things are just hereditary.”
All three sons have similar stories of growing up, playing other sports, but falling in love with basketball. They all say they felt no pressure put on them by their parents. However, once they zeroed in on the basketball path, each player got similar advice from their fathers: be themselves.
Which isn’t really easy to do with a famous family name.
“He gave me insight into what I needed to do to prepare to play,” said Corey Hawkins, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Arizona State. “He warned me, and said ‘just be you, just play basketball, be a regular kid like everyone else.’ ”
Coach Les said: “When they’re playing the game their father played, people want to see how they do. From early on they are under a microscope so much more than anyone else. And they are so down to earth. They’ve handled that from early on, with the attention. They didn’t ask for it, but they handle it well. I think it’s a credit to them and their families in the way that they were raised. That NBA world and NBA lifestyle, and it’s almost like a fantasy. Here you have kids that are very well-grounded and -rounded.”
Corey, Tyrell and Tyler know the ups-and-downs of basketball life. They have seen their fathers work through it and learned from their example. Now, they are able to share their knowledge with their fellow Aggies, whose preseason has been mostly full of downs en route to a 1-8 mark.
“We can see things — not that others can’t see — but us three especially can see what’s going wrong and be able to fix it,” Hawkins said. “We know how to be leaders, and we can help the team.”
Jim Les added: “They are quality young men; they are very good student-athletes and they are very good basketball players. Nobody’s recruited them because they are NBA legacies. It’s an added bonus because we get some attention for our program. They’ve been around the game and bring a good understanding.”
Corbin and Tyler Les will take the court next on Saturday when the Aggies face UCLA at the Honda Center.
— Reach Kim Orendor at firstname.lastname@example.org