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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 29 · Number 2 · Winter 2012

Sports: Pro Lines

portrait photos

Tyrell Corbin, Corey Hawkins and Tyler Les

Three men's basketball players bring NBA family ties to the Aggies court.

Jim Les makes a point of not talking basketball with players' parents, but when the players are Tyrell Corbin and Corey Hawkins, he's willing to make an exception.

That's because Corbin's dad is Tyrone Corbin, head coach of the Utah Jazz who spent 16 seasons playing in the NBA, and Hawkins' father is Hersey Hawkins, programs director for the Portland Trailblazers and former sharpshooter who played 13 years in the NBA and appeared in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game.

"Usually with parents, I don't tap into their knowledge of basketball in terms of how I'm running my program. For those two, I'm probably going to break that rule," Les said as he started his first season this fall as the Aggie men's basketball coach.

With Les' son, Tyler, also on the team, that makes three players with former pro players for dads. Jim Les, who was named last May as Aggies coach after nine seasons at Bradley University, spent seven years in the NBA, including a 1990–94 stint with the Sacramento Kings.

Three players. Three dads with NBA backgrounds. It's a unique backdrop to a program that Les hopes to turn into a winner.

Building on relationships

That the new players ended up at UC Davis is no coincidence. Hersey Hawkins and Jim Les both starred in the 1980's at Bradley University — a program that Les as coach would lead to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2006 — while Les and Tyrone Corbin were teammates with the Atlanta Hawks.

the future of athletics

The newly released
"UC Davis Athletics
Strategic Audit 2011" recommends that the campus "evaluate and adjust" its "guiding principles" for Division I competition.

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Hawkins went on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, Seattle SuperSonics and Chicago Bulls during his 1988–2001 NBA career. Corbin's 1985–2001 career, in addition to the Hawks, included stints with the San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors. During Les' 1988–95 pro career, he played for the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, in addition to Sacramento and Atlanta.

Despite the fathers' NBA fame, Les said, their sons don't face undue pressure. "I think those kids are pretty well adjusted," he said. "And I know just within our team unit, nobody is treating them differently because of who they are or what the name brings."

Tyrell Corbin is a 6-foot freshman guard for

UC Davis, joining the Aggies after a standout prep career at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, that led to him being named "Mr. Basketball" by Salt Lake City's Deseret News.

Corey Hawkins, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, transferred to UC Davis this fall after one season at Arizona State. NCAA transfer rules will keep him on the sidelines this season, but he'll have three years of eligibility left when he takes to the court in 2012–13.

Les said successful recruiting is about building relationships — and getting prospective student-athletes to visit UC Davis. The campus, the Aggies' style of play, the caliber of the student-athletes and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi's vision for the athletics program are raising UC Davis' stature as "a player in the recruiting process."

UC Davis returned nine letter winners from last year's squad, among them Les' son, Tyler. The 6-foot-2 sophomore is a three-point specialist for the Aggies, following in the footsteps of his father who led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage in 1990–91 and was second at the 1992 All-Star Game's three-point competition.

Corey Hawkins said he enjoys having teammates who understand what it's like to be the son of an NBA player. "It's kind of nice to be able to talk about it."

Tyler Les said he, Hawkins and Corbin sometimes watch TV replays of their dads' games. They end up laughing about his dad's mullet and other hairstyles. "We'll just joke around about stuff like that."

Biggs to step down
after 2012 season

Aggie football coach Bob Biggs '73 will retire from coaching at the end of the 2012 season, and from the university in June 2013.

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Raising expectations

Les is no stranger to winning. He was the head coach at Bradley for nine seasons, compiling a 154–140 (.524) record during 2002–11, including four consecutive 20-win seasons.

It was with his 2006 squad that he stamped his name as one of college basketball's top coaches. Their 22–11 record that year earned them a bid to the NCAA Tournament as a 13th seed. There they upset fourth-seeded Kansas and fifth-seeded Pittsburgh in the first two rounds, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 50 years.

At UC Davis, Les is raising expectations for players' responsibilities on and off the court. The players and coaches ultimately shoulder the responsibility for turning around a team that won just 10 times last season and opened the 2011–12 season with a series of losses.

Still, Les said, having NBA affiliations helps raise the Aggies profile. "Now we've got to back it up and have success, but I think that initial buy-in helps. People stand up and take notice."


Mike Robles is the assistant athletics director for media relations at UC Davis.