COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The advice Tim Hardaway Jr. receives from his famous father is fairly simple, and it resonates for the rising Michigan guard.
“Just go out there and have fun,” Hardaway Jr. said. “Don’t even worry about the media. Don’t worry about what everyone’s thinking about you. Just go out there and have fun and play ball.”
Hardaway Jr. tried doing just that in his first season, helping a Michigan team with no seniors reach the NCAA tournament and nearly upset Duke in the round of 32. He averaged 13.9 points, leading the Wolverines in scoring average during the Big Ten season. And now with point guard Darius Morris having unexpectedly left school for the NBA draft, much of the attention will be on Hardaway Jr. and the expectation that he’ll make a jump as a sophomore.
Words of wisdom from Tim Hardaway Sr., the five-time NBA All-Star with the killer crossover, have served to keep the younger Hardaway focused even as he went through a deep shooting slump in January. Morris took the freshman under his wing, and coaches also sat him down and encouraged him to stop rushing his shot. He responded by scoring in double figures in each of the final 16 games of the season.
It wasn’t always easy listening to his father or the critics. Growing up, Hardaway Jr. heard all the nasty things from those proclaiming he would never be as good as the other Tim Hardaway. And early in his high school career, he didn’t necessarily want his dad adding to the pressure.
"I don't want to be a coach to him. I just want to be a dad to him,” Hardaway Sr. told the Detroit News in 2009. “I've seen how it can tear up a home. It almost tore up ours already because I want him to excel so much.”
Recalled Hardaway Jr. while at this past weekend's U19 Team USA tryout: “He had to learn as well. I wasn’t getting it right away, and he wanted me to get it quickly like he did when he was growing up. I think everybody learns differently.”
“We got into arguments and my mom had to stop it,” he said with a laugh. “We talked it out. That’s in the past. We don’t really focus on that anymore.”
Hardaway Jr., of course, is not the same player that his father was. He’s 6-foot-5 [nearly a half-foot taller], prides himself on versatility due to his length and likes to shoot it from long distance, leading Michigan with 76 made 3-pointers last season. He did inherit his dad's emotional style of play, however. “Just the motivation and the will to not give in and not give up,” he said.
Next season will allow Hardaway Jr. an opportunity to put it all together, and he's getting a head start after being named a finalist to make USA Basketball’s U19 world championship team on Sunday. As for his college team, he says Michigan has a chip on its shoulder after taking Duke down to the final possession in March.
From that team, Hardaway Jr. is the top returning player in points, steals and assists. Like his dad, he has the game to take on the burden of leading an offense. Now -- as he's been reminded of from someone who shares his name -- it's just a matter of doing it.
“I realize what he was talking about.”