QUEEN OF THE GREENS
For those wondering what Michelle Wie’s career would look like if she had tapped the brakes, say hello to KIMBERLY KIM.Last year, the Korean-American from Hawaii became the youngest champ in the history of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, at age 14. Needing a birdie on the last hole, Kim sunk a 12-footer with the icy nerves of a pro twice her age, then sounded very much like a teenager when she told a reporter, “I just, like, hit it. It was like, Whatever, just hit the ball.” The win earned Kim an invite to her first LPGA event, this month’s SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Here we go again, you say? Just another teen running headlong into the impatience of the golf world? Not exactly.“We are not like Michelle Wie,” says Kim’s father, Young Soo. “We are not in a rush. We are going to be more careful.” Unlike Wie, who turned pro at 15, Kim is taking the slow and steady approach. She and her mom, Arlene, moved to Arizona in May to make it easier to travel the amateur circuit. When not doing schoolwork online, Kim is tweaking her swing, getting accustomed to fast mainland greens and enjoying her favorite hobby: sleeping. “I just want to make choices for the long run,” she says. So let the girl act her age. -ERICADELSON
There was no hype, no Freddy Adu circus. JOSMER ALTIDORE simply arrived. After spending most of 2006 at the IMG Soccer Academy in Florida, the 16-year-old rookie joined the Red Bulls down the MLS stretch and scored three huge goals-including a 30-yard blast in his second pro game-to carry them into the playoffs. Once there, he became the league’s youngest player ever to find a postseason net. “What he showed is mind-boggling,” says coach Bruce Arena. Altidore, a native of New Jersey and the son of Haitian immigrants, scored 19 goals in 25 games with the U.S. under-17 squad in 2005 but flew under the radar as a second-rounder in last January’s MLS draft. One year and four inches later (he’s 6'2" and still growing), Jozy is considered a natural to become America’s next scoring weapon.Now that’shype. “I tip my hat to Freddy,” he says. “It’s tough when people put so much on your shoulders. But I haven’t done anything yet.” Except get people talking. -LIAM McHUGH
HUSKY HIGHLIGHT REEL
You’ve heard it before: The girl can dunk. The difference with MAYA MOORE, says her Georgia Metros AAU coach, Charles Huddleston, “is that I’ve seen her dunk six or seven times in a row with authority.” The 6'1" Moore, a senior at Collins Hill High (Suwanee, Ga.), does a slam-specific workout four times a week that involves calf raises, bungee chords and jumping with a weight bar strapped to her shoulders. But it’s her earthbound game (28 ppg, 12 rpg, 5 spg) that makes Moore the best prep in the country,and that causes fans to congratulate the future UConn point guard for “playing like a guy.” Nothing irks her more. “I got my fundamentals playing with girls,” she stresses. “I’m proud to say that.” After a lackluster (her word) 27-point showing in the semis of December’s T-Mobile Invitational, Moore threw down 48 in the final, using crossovers, step-back J’s and post moves. But no dunks. She dominated by playing like a girl. -ELENA BERGERON
SoCal surf brands like O’Neill, Billabong and Quiksilver don’t have to travel far to find the future faces of the sport. On beaches along the Southern California coast, five of the top surfers on the junior circuit are making waves before they’re old enough to drive. RILEY METCALF, ANDREW DOHENY, LUKE DAVIS, NAT YOUNG and KOLOHE ANDINO (from left, all between the ages of 13 and 15) are second-generation surfers who’ve been on boards almost since birth. The early start has translated into endorsement deals their dads didn’t see until after puberty, if at all.In 2005, at age 11, Andino inked an agreement with Billabong; over the past couple of years, the three-time junior national champ and his four fellow groms have signed on to represent everything from sunglasses to cell phones.And they’re the rule, not the exception. “Up-and-coming riders used to be 17 to 23,” says Garth Tarlow, sports marketing director at O’Neill. “Now they’re 11 to 14.” Which means that Andino and his boys are just about over the hill. Poor kids. -ALYSSA ROENIGK
Look at this guy: 6'2", 205 pounds... runs like he’s from Krypton. And we’ll give you $20 if you can find an ounce of fat. As a sophomore, DARREN MCFADDEN rushed for 1,647 yards and 14 TDs, finishing second to Ohio State’s Troy Smith in the 2006 Heisman voting. “And he’s probably going to win it next year,” says Louisiana-Monroe defensive coordinator Kim Dameron, who watched the Arkansas tailback feast on his team for 129 yards and a TD in just two-plus quarters. McFadden explodes through holes, using a stiff-arm so lethal that opposing coaches tell their players to tackle him below the waist. His Mensalike football IQ allows the Razorbacks to use him at QB in their Wildcat package (he tossed 3 TDs last season). And he even added a 92-yard kick return for a touchdown. “He is by far the most versatile player in college football,” Dameron says. “He runs. He throws. He catches. I’m not sure he doesn’t punt.” Don’t bet against it. -GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI
The coiled and taut lefthanded stance, the power to all fields, the tenacious D at third base- yep, we’ll say it: ALEX GORDON plays like George Brett. Even Brett, now VP of player operations for the Kansas City Royals, can’t say enough about the big-grinning 23-year-old who was the second pick of the 2005 draft. “I wish I’d run as fast, was half as strong and had that much poise as a young kid,” Brett gushes. “He’s totally confident in his abilities.” At Double-A Wichita last summer, Gordon hit .325 with 29 HRs, 101 RBIs and 22 steals, earning Minor League Player of the Year honors from Baseball America. Barring a disastrous spring, he’ll be in the Royals’ Opening Day lineup. “Alex is gifted,” says club GM Dayton Moore. “He has a natural instinct to hit, no fear deep in the count, and he’s rangy, with lots of arm strength.” If anyone can ignite this struggling franchise, who better than the next Brett? -L.B.