Numerous E.V. athletes 'relatively' famous - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Numerous E.V. athletes 'relatively' famous

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Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2009 7:28 pm | Updated: 1:40 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Brad Heap mingled with NFL Pro Bowlers in Hawaii.

Nick and Chris Johnson met the entire Clippers team.

K.C. Toolson rubbed elbows with Hall of Famers that need no first-name introduction: Barkley, Jordan and Bird.

Those four - and others sprinkled throughout the Valley - have an inside look at the world of professional sports because of the family they keep.

And now they're on the court, trying to make a name for themselves.

Nick and Chris Johnson, brothers who attend Gilbert Highland, are the nephews of Hall of Fame guard Dennis Johnson. They used to go to his house for Thanksgiving, but Johnson died in February of 2007.

"I was younger then and I wasn't as into basketball when he was alive," Nick Johnson said. "I talked to him a little bit, got some pointers. If he was alive now, definitely I'd be going to him for advice."

Toolson's uncle is Danny Ainge, the former Celtics and Suns guard who is now the general manager in Boston.

Toolson, who also goes to Highland, remembers the special coaching clinics at home when Ainge would be around during the offseason.

"Over the summer, he would have a little camp for the cousins," Toolson said. "I'd go ask him to see what I could improve on, and he'd come tell me how to shoot."

Heap is in a different boat at Mesa Mountain View.

His main sport is football, just like his brother, Todd, a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, so they don't discuss basketball much. But Heap soaks in all he can about success on the gridiron.

"He really is a professional," Heap said. "He knows what he's doing, so I try to look at everything he does and try to do the same."

Other basketball players in the Valley with professional ties include Goodyear Estrella Foothills' Corey Hawkins (son of former Seattle SuperSonics guard Hersey Hawkins), Phoenix Brophy's Tyler Hornacek (son of former Suns guard Jeff Hornacek), Phoenix Desert Vista's Marcus Lever (son of former ASU star and Denver Nuggets forward Fat Lever) and Scottsdale Chaparral's Zeke Chapman (son of former Suns guard Rex Chapman).

All the athletes say the scenario is almost purely positive. They get professional advice and a chance to go places and meet people other kids their age can only dream about.

Heap said one thrill was meeting Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, and Chapman used to relish watching his favorite players, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, in practice when his dad was playing for the Suns.

Any taunting from opposing players or crowds has been minimal. But there are times when people assume that the silver spoon is squarely perched in their mouths.

"When people are like, 'Oh, he just gets that because he's Rex Chapman's son,' it kind of bothers me," Zeke Chapman said. "But I don't let it get to me that much."

With the last name of Heap at Mountain View - where Todd starred in the 1990s - Brad is well-known, but he doesn't worry about what his brother accomplished at the school.

"I don't like to be compared," Heap said. "But I do want to be known as his brother, because he's a good guy."

Many of the players are good enough for college basketball.

Hawkins has committed to Arizona State, while Chris Johnson and Nick Johnson both hold scholarship offers. Chapman, Lever, Toolson and Hornacek all start.

Chris Johnson said recruiters make it clear that they are recruiting him, regardless of his family tree.

"They never mention Dennis," Johnson said. "It's not like that."

Most of these players know each other from the club basketball circuit. Nick Johnson and Chapman were very close growing up.

But none talk about their famous relatives much.

"It's kind of like bragging," Nick Johnson said.

Said Chapman: "My dad will say, 'Oh, I used to play with him,' but that's about it, really."

Not even to teammates.

Chris Johnson had no idea of Toolson's relation to Ainge until recently.

"I just found out that (Toolson's) uncle was ... who is his uncle again?" Johnson asked. "Yeah, Danny Ainge. I just found that out. He definitely didn't talk about it. He's not like that at all. We're not like that.

"I never really say my uncle is Dennis Johnson, or anything like that. If people ask about it, I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah, he's my uncle.'

"I'll have people coming up to me after games, saying, 'You're a good player.' And then they say, 'Your uncle was D.J., that's why.'

"But it doesn't bother me. If it was affecting me, I wouldn't want it, but it isn't affecting me at all."

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]