PALO ALTO -- When his dad was hired five years ago to coach Stanford's basketball team, Aubrey Dawkins wasn't even 6-feet tall. In other words, the younger Dawkins was a pushover in one-on-one games against his old man, a former Duke star who played nine seasons in the NBA.
But a new day has arrived.
In a case of blooming late, Aubrey Dawkins has sprouted into a 6-foot-5 basketball talent. The senior leads Palo Alto in scoring and is second on the team in rebounding as the Vikings have opened this season with 14 wins in their first 15 games.
Dawkins -- or anyone else playing in Santa Clara County -- is no Aaron Gordon. Major programs aren't beating down his door as they are the Archbishop Mitty star. But college basketball appears to be in Dawkins' future.
"I think he's a Division I player," said Dawkins' dad, Johnny. "I think that'll happen for him. It's just finding the right fit."
Johnny Dawkins doesn't attend many of his son's games because of commitments to his own team. But he sat in the gym Friday night at Homestead when the youngest of his four children scored 26 points to lead Palo Alto to a victory.
That performance followed Dawkins' 27-point game against Saratoga and a 26-point outburst against Milpitas.
"For me, it's always a treat to be able to see him play," Johnny Dawkins said. "Watching him develop, he's got a really good feel for the game. He's very versatile as a player."
So versatile that
He has done so by continuing to devote time and energy to the game -- studying video, lifting weights and listening to his dad's critiques.
"I knew I had it in me," Dawkins said. "It was just a matter of doing it."
Dawkins has scored at least 20 points six times this season and has been held to single digits just twice.
He handles the ball when opportunities arise, passes well in Palo Alto's Princeton-style (motion, backdoor-cut) offense and is good enough to defend top scorers.
At one point against Homestead, Dawkins soared to dunk on an alley-oop pass. At another point, he stole the ball near midcourt and drove for a layup while drawing a foul, prompting a spectator to shout, "That was a big-time play right there."
But is the big time in Dawkins' future? Palo Alto coach Adam Sax said Dawkins is still in the ascent stage, learning daily.
"The sky's the limit for him," Sax said. "He grew so fast, he didn't have the weight. He's been working hard in the weight room. He's been lifting for the last two years. Once his body gets stronger, then he's going to be pretty much unstoppable.
"But as far as D-1 goes, he could play D-1 right now."
Aubrey Dawkins said it would be a dream to play beyond high school, and he is working hard to make it happen. This season Palo Alto needed Dawkins to become more aggressive, and that is what he has done.
"He's very unselfish," Sax said. "Last year he was more content to shoot a 3. This year he's driving, much more aggressive going to the basket, rebounding more -- just playing overall more aggressive."
The message Dawkins hears most from his dad: Play your game -- which means:
"I am kind of an all-around player," Dawkins said. "I kind of do a little bit of everything. I do what I need for my team to win."
Dawkins is three inches taller than his 6-2 father, so the elder Dawkins said it's unfair to compare the two as players. Johnny Dawkins, a guard, was the Naismith college player of the year when he helped lead Duke to the 1986 national title game.
"Two different players. Two different generations," Johnny Dawkins said. "I think he's really talented at what he does. But we're two different players."
The younger Dawkins transferred to Palo Alto from St. Francis before his junior year when the family moved to the Stanford campus.
Dawkins continued to sprout and his game continued to blossom -- to the point that his dad no longer wins when they play one-on-one.
"I try to help him develop, try to show him little nuances of the game," Johnny Dawkins said. "Now he's beating me. He had to earn them, that's for sure. None of the games were given to him."