Kerr carving out own legacy

Nick Kerr admits there’s some pressure that comes with being the son of a former NBA star.

And he says it doesn’t bother him one bit.

The Torrey Pines junior, whose father Steve was one of the most prolific perimeter shooters in NBA history during the heydays of the 1990s Chicago Bulls, is busy carving out his own legacy these days.

Nick Kerr is a budding Falcons star who has shown a pretty sweet 3-point stroke himself, leading his team to a 5-0 start. Kerr was the MVP of the Dec. 4-11 Hilltop tournament in Chula Vista.

“I know people have some expectations, but I don’t really worry about it,” Kerr said. “I just go out and play.”

This week, Kerr and the Falcons will go out and play on a national stage when the Falcons play host to the prestigious MaxPreps Holiday Classic.

The Dec. 26-30 tournament, considered one of the nation’s most significant prep athletic events in any sport, features 72 teams from across the nation and Canada playing in five divisions.

The field includes St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J., the nation’s top-ranked team according to U.S.A. Today.

The Falcons open against Rim of the World of Lake Arrowhead Dec. 26 at 10 a.m. at Torrey Pines High in the Mayor’s Division. Other area teams competing include Cathedral Catholic, La Jolla High, La Jolla Country Day and Francis Parker.

Tournament games will also be played in gyms at Cathedral Catholic, Westview, Rancho Bernardo and La Costa Canyon.

The tournament is in its 20th year and third since partnering with MaxPreps, considered the go-to high school sports information Web site.

The tournament has in recent years showcased several high-profile talents who’ve went on to play at Division 1 colleges and the NBA.

NBA rookie of the year favorite Brandon Jennings, a Milwaukee Bucks guard, played in the tournament three years ago.

Hundreds of college coaches are expected to descend upon the Del Mar area in the coming days, Torrey Pines coach John Olive said.

“It’s going to be fun watching all those guys,” Kerr said.

Those guys figure to enjoy watching Kerr too.

A second-year starter, Kerr is averaging 25 points and is a 43 percent shooter (25 for 58) from beyond the arc.

Olive said Kerr is the best pure shooter he’s seen in a coaching career that within a week will have spanned four decades and includes being an assistant coach at Villanova University when the Wildcats shocked Georgetown to win the 1985 national title.

His laid-back demeanor disguises an intense competitor who’s tirelessly dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help his team win, Olive said.

Kerr started playing rec ball when he was 5 and started playing organized ball when he was about 9.

He cites playing recreational beach volleyball with his family and chowing down chicken club sandwiches at Del Mar’s Board and Brew among his favorite activities.

His sister Maddy, a Torrey Pines freshman, is a competitive volleyball player who played on the junior varsity this year.

Kerr said father helped him form his shot when he was 13, and assistant coach Kelly Peters has helped him perfect it in offseason training with teammates Max Heller and Joe Rahon.

Kerr believes confidence to be just as important as mechanics.

“It is a lot of repetition, just getting the same form every time, but I always think of it as being a confidence factor,” Kerr said. “If I’m ever not confident that’s when I have my worst game, that’s when I don’t shoot well, so I try not to worry about it.”

Olive says his ability to hit perimeter shots with consistency is a tribute to his work ethic.

“He’s a very hard-working young man,” Olive said. “You don’t become a shooter like he is without putting a lot of time into it.”

These days Kerr is applying that work ethic to expand his game, working on attacking the basket and being a better defender, skills that figure to help him excel at the high school level and boost his college stock.

“He’s very serious about becoming more than just a shooter,” Olive said. “He’s worked very hard on his ball handling and his defense. He’s becoming a very complete player.”

Olive said Kerr has attracted the interest of several D-1 coaches, including a few high-level programs.

Kerr’s exposure to basketball began when he was practically a toddler, watching his father play alongside Michael Jordan in the midst of the Bulls 1990s dynasty.

He vividly remembers his father hitting a game-winning shot against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA finals.

Kerr cites his exposure to Jordan at a young age as a contributing factor in his development.

“I remember watching Jordan dominate the game — nobody could stop him,” Kerr said. “He wanted to win more than anyone and he would just take games over sometimes and not let them lose.”