Commentary

Looking good in those genes

Sports prowess runs in these six families currently cultivating prep standouts

Updated: January 26, 2011, 5:15 PM ET
By Stacey Pressman | ESPN The Magazine

Having a world-class athlete in your family tree doesn't guarantee prep success -- but it doesn't hurt. ESPN The Magazine contributor Stacey Pressman spotlights six the prep stars with serious sports pedigrees. (Photographs by Andreas Laszlo Konrath).

Barry Sanders Jr. and Sterling Shepard

Juniors at Heritage Hall, Oklahoma City, Okla. | Class of 2012: Undeclared
Prep teammates Barry Sanders Jr. (right) and Sterling Shepard share a second football brotherhood. Sterling's dad, Derrick Shepard, was an NFL receiver for five years. He died of a heart attack in 1999. Barry shares a name with one of the greatest runners in NFL history. Recruiters are salivating because Barry and Sterling play the same positions as their dads.

Barry Jr.: "It's definitely an advantage in life having this name, but when it comes to advantages in recruiting, I don't think so. What coaches see on film is what they see on film. Dad doesn't give football advice. He just doesn't put emphasis on trying to make me a football player. He enjoys watching me, he supports me, but he couldn't care less if I played or not."

Sterling: "I resemble him in a lot of ways. He was a great punt returner. He had great vision, but he wasn't that quick and I'm not that fast, either. I have great vision and see the holes. He'd also catch anything that hit his hands. My uncles tell me all the time, 'You're a lot like him.' "


Austin Rivers

Senior at Winter Park (Fla.) HS | Class of 2011: Signed with Duke
The consensus No. 1 hoops recruit in the country, Rivers is doing all he can to break free from his father's shadow. That shouldn't be tough: Scouts peg the guard as a future No. 1 pick in the NBA, and Duke, his next stop, doesn't lack for exposure.

" 'Doc Rivers' kid' -- that's all people used to call me. That's all I was known for: 'Doc Rivers' kid. Blah, blah, blah.' But it's always motivated me to get out of his shadow and create my own name. I've worked as hard as possible to make my own name, and I feel like now people kind of look at me as my own person. They now see me as Austin, and now that I have my own name, I'm determined to keep it. And I'm never worried about any expectations Dad has for me, because at the end of the day, my expectations are higher than anybody's."


Sydney Moss

Junior at Boone County HS, Florence, Ky. | Class of 2012: Undeclared
We know Randy Moss the NFL star, but few know that back in 1994 he was the No. 1 high school hoops star in West Virginia at DuPont High School. Well, Randy's daughter, Sydney Moss, is now a hoops star in her own right, averaging 22 points a game and receiving scholarship offers every day.

"I kind of like it that people know he's my dad, because it really pushes me to do better and make a name for myself. To be behind him is not a bad thing because it pushes me. Yes, I got my athletic ability from him, but he didn't teach me to dribble, rebound and do all the moves I do. He's getting old, too, so I bet I could take him in basketball."


Alex Carpenter

Junior at The Governor's Academy, Byfield, Mass. | Class of 2011: Committed to Boston College
In 1981, 17-year-old Bobby Carpenter was the first player ever drafted out of a U.S. high school straight to the NHL. Talk about good genes? Now, 30 years later, his daughter, Alex, is one of the nation's top women's hockey recruits. Bobby's advice to Alex? "Tell them, 'If my dad were a girl, he would probably play just like me.' "

"I get the 'She's Bobby Carpenter's daughter' a lot, but I've learned to deal with it. Sometimes it's hard when they notice my dad more than me, but I understand it -- and we do have two different things going on. I obviously can't go to the NHL, but having a dad who's a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer motivates me. I like knowing where he is while I am playing, because, I admit, I'm still trying to impress him and show him what I can do."


Nicklaus O'Leary

Senior at William T. Dwyer HS, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. | Class of 2011: Committed to Florida State
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus carries a laminated card with the birthdays of all 21 of his grandchildren. The Golden Bear keeps tabs on all of them, but his third grandchild, Nicklaus O'Leary, stands out. "Nick" is one of the nation's top tight end recruits. The 6'4", 230-pounder can fire off golf rounds in the 70s, but his future is in the NFL, not with the PGA Tour. Says Gramps: "This college recruiting process could give a young man a head so big it would be difficult to have arms long enough to scratch your ears. But that's not the case with Nick."

"He's my grandfather, and I love him. Sure, sometimes, the added attention can get frustrating and make me mad -- but I deal with it. When I'm with Grandpa I really do enjoy it. He always tells me to keep my eyes on my goals, and if I want to do something, make sure I get it done."

Stacey Pressman is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine.