NEXT TEEN TITANS
Meet Seven Kids (Including One Preteen)
Who Look Like Next. We’ll Tell You Why
By Lindsay Berra
Greg Oden 17
He’s been called the next KG and the next Shaq. But all this seven-footer cares about are the players next to him. “Greg’s not a me, me guy,” says Jack Keefer, his coach at Lawrence North High. “He’ll be shooting 80%, then pass to a kid who’s shooting 20% and say, ‘But Coach, he was open.’” Although the 255-pound Oden is often triple-teamed, Keefer recently issued an ultimatum: shoot 15 times a game or ride pine. The kid’s defense already has him projected to go first in the 2006 NBA draft. “Teams change their games when Greg’s in the middle,” Keefer says. In a few years, we might be saying Oden’s changed the league.
Amobi Okoye 17
Growing up in Nigeria, he saw the NFL on TV only twice. So when his family moved to Huntsville, Ala., in 1999, and the precocious Okoye entered high school at age 12, football wasn’t a priority. He wanted to hit the track and the books, not the QB. But the coach at Lee High saw the young giant and signed him up. By his senior year, Amobi was an all-state defensive tackle, and when he headed to Louisville at 16, he became one of the youngest college football players ever. Already remarkably quick, the 6'2", 312-pound sophomore “is getting stronger all the time,” says Louisville defensive coordinator Mike Cassity. Once the NFL calls, there should be a few more games on Nigerian tubes.
Robert Stock 15
It’s 6:30 am. Hear the ping ping from the batting cage? That’s the youngest player on the Agoura High Chargers taking his extra cuts before school. Stock is a pitching ace, blessed with pinpoint accuracy and a low-90s fastball, who also plays the outfield, catches and hits cleanup. “I like to pitch because the whole game is in your hands,” he says. “But I still need to work on hitting the curve.” Last summer, he was the youngest player on USA Baseball’s National Youth team (he homered in his only at-bat), and agent Scott Boras has already checked him out. “Robert’s a man out there,” says Agoura coach Scott Deck. “But he’s still raw.” That’s why he’s in the cage.
Nicole Vaidisova 15
BRADENTON, FLA. VIA PRAGUE
Yes, she's a leggy blonde who draws inevitable comparisons to Maria Sharapova. But the similarities end with the looks, Vaidisova insists: “I admire Maria, but I’m Nicole.” The 5'11" Czech, who trains in Florida at the Bollettieri Academy, has a power baseline game, a wicked serve and a nasty forehand that are all her own. She’s won two WTA titles, at Vancouver and Tashkent, and she toppled Sharapova in a World TeamTennis match last summer. Vaidisova finished the year ranked No. 77, up from No. 264 in March. Now she and coach Ales Kodat, who doubles as her dad, have their sights set even higher. Although the superstitious Nicole won’t say how high, here’s an idea: the last Czech-born woman ranked No. 1 was Martina Navratilova, in 1987.
Elena Delle Donne 14
Seven years ago, Ernie Delle Donne made a big decision: his tall, talented daughter would not spend life under the basket. So he hired a coach to hone her guard skills. “Elena can dribble, pass, post up, hit threes and shoot off the screen,” says AAU Fencor coach Veronica Algeo, whose squad has won two national titles with the 6'4" star. Delle Donne also led her high school team to a state championship as an eighth-grader last year. But her drive doesn’t come from a trophy case. Her 20-year-old sister, Elizabeth, was born deaf and blind and suffers from cerebral palsy. “She struggles with easy tasks every day,” Elena says. “I just can’t complain when I have a rough game.”
Cheyenne Woods 14
Forget her famous uncle for a minute. Focus instead on the sweet swing, the long drives, the nerves of steel. And remember, this girl is in 10th grade. Since picking up golf seven years ago, Woods has won more than 30 city, regional and national tourneys. Her game is tight, all right. More impressive, she plays loose. She is nearly four strokes better in matches than in practice, says her coach, Mike LaBauve. “She's much better when there's something on the line.” Turns out Cheyenne is a Tiger in competition.
Dylan Oliver 6
He calls everyone dude. Everyone calls him the next Tony Hawk. He is 3'6", pops ollies in his kitchen and is best buds with a 15-year-old across the street. Other 6-year-olds get on his nerves, says Dylan’s dad, Al. “It’s my fault, because I don’t treat him like a baby.” Nobody does. Dylan has big-time sponsors (Kicker car stereos, Von Zipper sunglasses) to go with his big-time rep (he made the cover of The New York Times Magazine). But it’s not about the money. First thing he does when he wakes up is put on his helmet. So what’s his favorite trick? The front-side air, of course. “It’s the most funnest, dude.”