Thu Mar 03 09:03am EST
The names Griffey and Larkin tend to conjure images of deep homers and slick catches. Now, at one Orlando school, they're becoming synonymous with success on the hardwood court.
Dr. Phillips (Fla.) High's girls basketball team won the Florida High School Athletic Association state title behind the skillful orchestration of a 5-foot-5 freshman point guard. Her name? Taryn Griffey. Yes, she is the daughter of Ken Griffey Jr.
Meanwhile, the Dr. Phillips boys basketball team will play for a shot at a Class 6A state title of its own on Friday, thanks to the heroics of a DePaul-bound senior point guard. His name? Shane Larkin. Yes, he is the son of longtime Reds shortstop Barry Larkin.
Together, the two sires of legendary baseball players have raised the profile of their school's basketball programs above all other sports at Dr. Phillips, save the football program ... which happens to be the reigning Florida Class 6A state runner-up. In fact, the two stars have helped push Dr. Phillips' hoops reputation above that of nearly all other programs in the state.
Though the success isn't particularly surprising (and both teens do show much of a phenomenal athleticism that characterized their fathers' careers) the sport they chose isn't what one would naturally expect. While plenty of children of sports stars go on to high school success of their own, the ones that seep into the public consciousness are usually those who star in the sport their father or mother excelled at.
While there are exceptions to that rule -- Trevor Gretzky first focused on football and now is heading toward a collegiate baseball future -- most high-profile children do tend to follow their parents' athletic lead, at least as far as it will take them. Instead, Griffey and Larkin have found their footing in their own sport, getting support from their famous parents without as strong a sense of having their parents peer over their shoulder.
The fact that they both play at Dr. Phillips, a public school with a long legacy of success across different sports, might be pure happenstance. Or it might be a testament to the general atmosphere in the school's athletic department. Whatever it is, Dr. Phillips coaches have certainly proven adept at getting the best out of their latest pair of celebrity proteges.
While Griffey is still three years from college, she may prove to be the more tantalizing talent of the two in the long run. The freshman scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the state title game, helping establish a sense of calm when the Panthers were put under pressure.
"Once we knew how to break their press and break their defense it was easy from then on," Griffey told Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV. "We just had to play our game and that's what we did."
If Griffey makes things easy for her teammates, Larkin just makes things look easy in general. The senior has shown a penchant for running Phillips' offense with ease and taking over with explosive bursts of scoring when needed, a skill he flexed with his summer AAU program, Diana Neal's Showtime Ballers, which led a slew of college programs to inquire about his future.
In the end, Larkin picked DePaul because of post-collegiate possibilities and -- equally important -- the relationship the DePaul coaches struck up with his parents, particularly his father.
"I chose because I have a strong relationship with the coaches and they have a good relationship with my parents," Larkin told Rivals.com. "You can develop relationships with people in the Fortune 500 companies in Chicago. You can have good job opportunities after school if basketball doesn't work out."
For now, basketball is working out quite well for both Larkin and Griffey, even if it might not have been the expected route of their athletic development. After all, not everyone has a potential Hall of Fame father to give pointers about batting stances and fielding tips.
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