Ewing Jr. ready to make name for himself at IU

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Pat Ewing Jr. expects the questions, and he's already prepared the answers.

People want to know if his father influenced his game, how their styles compare and whether he could ever be as successful as the NBA's first lottery pick.

That's a large burden for a 19-year-old who has never played a college game. Still, the son of one of the NBA's best players ever has accepted it all.

''You all are comparing me to one of the 50 greatest players of all time,'' he said with a smile. ''To be compared with that, there's got to be some good in it.''

While the Indiana freshman may never escape the long shadow of his father, who led Georgetown to three NCAA championship games and became the cornerstone of the New York Knicks, the younger Ewing hopes to distinguish himself on the court.

It's not exactly like father, like son.

Ewing Jr. stands 6 foot 8, not 7 feet. He is an athletic forward, not an intimidating shot-blocker. He'd rather drive to the basket or go outside than post up.

And don't expect to see him imitating his dad's patented running jumper that doesn't work for him.

''I'm not an NBA center, so they call traveling on me,'' he said.

The elder Ewing also is cast in a new role proud papa.

While he keeps tabs on his son's progress from afar, as an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, he calls his son frequently with fatherly advice.

Keep the grades up, work hard, be himself and don't worry too much about basketball.

''I want him to flourish, to do well, to enjoy college and the college experience,'' the elder Ewing said.

Some of the choices Ewing Jr. has made are designed to help him follow his father's words.

This year he will wear No. 3, not his dad's No. 33, because he doesn't believe he's earned the second number yet. That, he said, would only come after he reached a yet-to-be-determined goal.

He also could have gone to Georgetown where his dad led the Hoyas to the NCAA title game in his freshman year, but the younger Ewing selected the Hoosiers, in part, so he could start fresh.

''I'm already put in his shadow many times and I like being in his shadow sometimes,'' the younger Ewing said. ''But I don't really need that right now.''

It's not to say Ewing Jr. doesn't hope to be a little like his dad; he would like to chase NCAA championships and play in the NBA.

But he also wants to follow the lead of other Junior stars, such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr., by making a name for himself.

If first impressions mean anything, the younger Ewing is off to a good start.

The talkative forward is considered one of the nation's best freshmen. His passionate, fearless approach already have won the admiration of teammates and coaches who describe him as one of the Hoosiers' leaders.

''He's a warrior, a flat-out competitor,'' senior A.J. Moye said. ''I think he's benefited from being around the game. He's fierce.''

The Hoosiers figure he's also a key to their success.

After losing last season's top inside threat, Jeff Newton, to graduation, coach Mike Davis needs another frontline player to complement the lanky George Leach.

So Davis hopes to get major contributions from little-used senior Mike Roberts, improving sophomore Sean Kline, freshman Jessan Gray-Ashley and, yes, Ewing Jr.

Davis is counting heavily on the younger Ewing.

''We've had guys here who are 6-7, 6-8 who can shoot a little bit,'' Davis said. ''But we've never had someone who is so explosive underneath the basket.''

The younger Ewing, admittedly, has taken a different path to get here.

When he showed up at the 2002 Nike All-America Camp, he was gangly, tentative and raw. Now, he's aggressive and stronger at a lean 215 pounds.

He's still improving, too.

A custody dispute and poor grades limited him to just 2 1/2 seasons of high school ball, but he credits good coaching and his father's help with his rapid development. Even if dad still holds the upper hand.

''We worked on shooting and getting his shot,'' the elder Ewing said, referring to last summer's workouts. ''We played some one-on-one, but I definitely won. I let him win once and told him I wasn't going to do that ever again.''

Against his peers, Ewing Jr. has done better than hold his own.

As a junior, he averaged 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for one of the nation's top teams Marietta High School in Georgia. Last year, at National Christian Academy in Maryland, his numbers jumped to 19 points and 12 rebounds a game.

The questions and comparisons came with more frequency as he got better, and he knows they won't stop until he proves himself on the court.

''If I was 7 feet, heck, yeah, I'd try to be the player he was,'' the younger Ewing said. ''He was the Shaq of his time. He was almost unstoppable. I'd love to play like that.''

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