Arash Markazi
Monday January 14th, 2008

Classify this as a case of déjà vu. Sitting in the bleachers of a basketball gym in Los Angeles, Sharon Drew is looking at her son, Larry Jr., a 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard, directing traffic on the court as television cameras capture his every move.

Nearly three decades ago, she was doing the same thing. Back then she was watching her husband, Larry Sr., who was drafted in the first round of the 1980 NBA draft by the Pistons and played 10 years in the league. Now she is watching her son Larry Drew Jr., a senior at Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) High who has committed to North Carolina.

"It's amazing," says Sharon, who attends every one of her son's games. "I see a lot of [his father] when he plays but it's so much better being here as a mother. It's a different kind of proud when you're a mom. Sometimes I really have to step back and remove myself from the whole situation and realize that this is actually happening. It's his turn now."

While Drew's position, physique and uniform number (10) are identical to his father's, the games are a little different. "He's better than his dad already," says Sharon. "He's better with an exclamation."

Drew Sr., now an assistant for the Atlanta Hawks, doesn't disagree with his wife's assessment. Every other week Drew Jr. sends his game tapes to his father. When he receives them, Larry Sr. has the Hawks' video coordinator edit it and convert it into two DVDs, one for him and one to ship to his son. While Larry Sr. lives in Atlanta during the NBA season, he is able to coach his son some 2,200 miles away by choreographing the exact moment when they put in the DVDs and push the play button.

"He knows when we watch tape I'm not going to sugarcoat anything, and to his credit he's very receptive to my criticism," says Larry Sr. "The bottom line is getting better. Where Larry is at his age, I was no where near that at 17. I didn't have the type of skills that he does. I hope and pray he has twice the success I had as a basketball player and so far he's on the right track."

The coaching sessions have molded Larry Jr. into one of the smartest high school point guards in the nation. He has become an extension of the coaching staff on the floor, able to dissect defensive schemes and take advantage of an opponent's weakness like a veteran.

"He's mature beyond his years as a player," says Taft coach Derrick Taylor. "I pick his brain sometimes. He understands the game and has a high skill level. We've had some great players here at Taft with Steve Smith and Jordan Farmar and he's right there."

Drew's maturity level on and off the court (he is an honor student who plans on majoring in psychology) came at an early age. He sat up at three months, began walking at seven months and reading at 2. "He was a kid who was off the charts in terms of development," says his mother, who plans to travel to all of his college games as well. "Ever since he was born doctors and teachers have told me that he is a gifted child."

It is his basketball education, though, that truly sets Drew apart from his peers. During Larry Sr.'s 13 seasons as an NBA assistant coach, he has been with the Lakers, Pistons, Wizards and Nets, enabling his son to shoot around with Kobe Bryant, dish passes to Jason Kidd and post up Michael Jordan. The prospect of facing a lineup of teenagers doesn't seem so daunting in comparison.

"I can't tell you how many great players I met and learned from growing up," says Larry Jr., who is averaging 13.4 points and 8.1 assists for Taft this season. "I talked to everyone from Allen Iverson to Steve Nash. Then again, I've been doing that my whole life. That's all I've known."

Drew's fearlessness on the court at an early age allowed him to take over for Farmar as a freshman after the current Laker graduated in 2004. In a matter of weeks Drew went from the freshman team to the leading scorer on a varsity squad that went deep into the playoffs. It's a position he might find himself in again if Ty Lawson leaves North Carolina after this season.

"At an early age I was always playing older kids so when I got to high school I knew it would be no different," says Drew. "So now going into Carolina, playing as a freshman, I know I'll be able to handle that."

While Drew seems prepared for every situation, he couldn't have predicted what would have happened to his team last season. After going 20-4, Taft was banned from postseason competition and forced to forfeit 16 of its wins because of an ineligible player.

"I couldn't believe it," says Drew. "I was angry but it motivated me for this year. I want to win city and state and prove to people that I'm one of the best point guards in the country."

After the disappointment Drew gathered the juniors together and let them know that the only way to erase the memory of their lost season would be to make their senior season memorable. So far, Taft has beaten their first two league opponents by an average of 50 points.

"Once the summer came Larry, Terran [Carter] and myself hit the weights, ran stairs and went to the sand dunes in Manhattan Beach every weekend," says Taft senior guard Bryce Smith. "We followed a program that Larry's dad used when he played and went as hard as we could knowing we only had one year left to win a ring."

As Drew finishes out his career at Taft, his brothers, Landon, 13, and Lindsey, 10, are waiting in the wings. While Landon will a freshman at Taft next season, Lindsey is the team's unofficial water boy, studying his brothers' every move from the sideline and waiting for his chance.

"I think of the three, Landon is the gym rat," says Larry Sr. "At 13 -- and Larry won't agree with me -- he's better than Larry was at that age. He's on track to be a great player. And I think Lindsey is a carbon copy of Larry. I think at 10 he's probably more skilled than what Larry was at that age but when I see him, I see Larry all over again. I think they're going to be similar players."

While each brother claims to be the best player from the self-described "Drew Crew," it will be years before anyone will truly know. Until then Sharon Drew will continue to be in the stands, cheering on the Drews for the foreseeable future.

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