Unlike most sports stars, Hughes does not relish the spotlight off the court. He is a quiet, humble man who cherishes the love of his family. Watch Larry's mother, Vanessa, and his 14-year-old brother, Justin, in the stands at a Warriors home game and you can learn more about the third-year pro than you can from watching him on the court. A casual observer at The Arena in Oakland may have caught Vanessa Hughes' charitable heart at work as she watched her son leading Golden State on the court. Sitting a row in front of Vanessa and Justin as the Warriors battled to keep pace with the Suns was a young fan wearing a Jason Kidd jersey. In an effort to persuade the Kidd supporter to change alliances, while also fetching him a free gift, Vanessa worked with a Warriors public relations employee to obtain her son's #20 Warriors jersey for the fan. Vanessa's effort brought a huge smile to the child's face and built upon the growing list of Bay Area Larry Hughes admirers.

exa That same night, the Warriors made young Justin their recipient of the nightly pizza dash giveaway, regularly awarded to the loudest fan in the arena. Rather than keeping the large pizza to themselves, Vanessa sent Justin walking through the aisles giving away slices to other young fans.

Such has been the way Vanessa raised the Hughes boys - stinginess and self-serving attitudes were not accepted. In return, Vanessa has made every possible effort to give her sons a positive upbringing.

"My mom has always kept us in line," Larry says of Vanessa, who raised her sons as a single mother. "She helps me keep my priorities straight."

Vanessa's guidance relieved the tensions for Larry, as he struggled to make a mark in the NBA playing behind Allen Iverson in Philadelphia. After displaying flickers of his skill in limited playing time through his first 100 NBA games, Hughes was traded to Golden State on February 16, 2000. The Warriors have provided Hughes with an inverted playing situation to the one he had with the Sixers. In order to get off the court, he almost has to ask the Golden State coaches for a break.

"I've been a lot happier with my career since joining the Warriors," Hughes says. "I'm a major part of a team on the rise."

His game is a scattergun method that leaves defenders fluttering like a bewildered bee confused by too many flowers. At 6-5, his quickness, combined with a no-fear attitude, allows him to slash and drive smoothly or ferociously to the hoop. His leaping ability enables him to soar over taller defenders as he did while with the Sixers when he tipped in the game-winning shot after leaping over two Nets players. The buzzer-beating tip-in caused Theo Ratliff to claim he thought someone had literally boosted Hughes into the air.

As though nature concealed a trap, Hughes' face looks innocent enough to be drawn in a Disney cartoon with his frame so thin and delicate light could shine through. But don't be fooled. To his opponents, Larry's game is a beauty. A dreadful kind of beauty admired as one would admire the sleek lazy danger of a black leopard.

"Larry can play," says Iverson, one of Hughes' best friends in the league. "He can shoot, he can go to the basket, he can (jump). He's one of the best dunkers in the league, but that's only part of his game."

Even Larry Brown, who placed Hughes in the doghouse after hearing him complain about playing time to the press, has no problem praising the player he once conflicted with. "Larry Hughes is a special kid who has good character," Brown says. "He's mature way beyond his years. He's also got talent. He has a bigger upside to his game than Allen Iverson."

Hughes' game can be compared to a restless child whose fingers stray to every loose article. For all his hustle and quickness, he looks remarkably smooth. So often men trip by being in a rush, but not Hughes. The faster he goes, the more effortless it looks for him.

exa "Getting Larry brought a smile to my face," says Jamison, who didn't play with Hughes last season because of his knee injury. "His game is just so special." "Antawn and I have a mutual respect for each other," Hughes says of the other half of the franchise's future. "We get along great. With Antawn, though, there's something wrong with you if you don't like him. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever come across. Plus, neither of us feels we have to be the main guy on the team. We just want to win. As a team we're getting close now. Our front office has made a lot of good moves recently and in the next couple of years I think Antawn and I can help turn things around."

Being part of a major turnaround is nothing new to Hughes. In fact, turning around a basketball team would seem an easy task following his role in a turnaround that saved his brother Justin's life. During Larry's senior year in high school, the Hughes threesome was faced with a brush of death in their close-knit family.

After a defect in his heart was fixed at birth, Justin's heart began leaking at the age of 10. A year later, Justin went into cardiac arrest. Vanessa and Larry sat by his side and waited. Without a heart transplant at this time Justin would die.

For two days Justin lay in the hospital bed, not far from death. On the third day, a donor heart arrived and doctors immediately began surgery to insert it into Justin's chest. During this time, Vanessa and Larry waited in the clock-ticking silence of the waiting room - their hearts in their stomachs while Justin's was being replaced. They did not speak of Justin while waiting, which meant they could think of nothing else. Their words ignored the thought of Justin's death, but their minds never left it.

Later, when Vanessa crept away into a corner to hide from the reality of the situation, Larry followed to give support to his shaken mother.

"She tried to put up a barrier of toughness, but I knew it was so weak it would fall over just by being touched," Larry says. "I just wanted to be there for her to keep her barrier strong."

Larry joined his mother in the corner of the waiting room and embraced her. "It's all right," he said. "This is what we need, this is what Justin needs. One more time, just one more time, and everything is going to be all right."

Larry's hopes rang true as Justin's surgery was successful. Vanessa and Larry were elated, almost as though they themselves had been dead and resurrected. The closeness the family displayed during this time has always been their norm. Larry avoided local gangs growing up in St. Louis due to spending hours alone at home doing chores per Vanessa's orders. He is eight years Justin's senior, so he spent much of his youth to himself. Vanessa involved him in sports to keep him out of trouble and Larry fell in love with basketball from the start. He spent many hours by himself in a local park playing basketball - alone on the court like he was playing a part on a great stage with only himself as an audience. Once Justin came into their lives, Vanessa made it Larry's responsibility to meet him after school and attend to him. So Larry brought Justin with him to the park, leaving his brother in the sandbox while he shot baskets.

exa Larry has since chosen to make crucial decisions in his life based on his family's needs. While Justin struggled to survive, Larry contemplated ending his senior year of basketball early. At the urging of Justin to continue playing, Larry became a McDonald's All-American and led Christian Brothers High to the Missouri State Title. After high school, he turned down many big-time college basketball programs to stay at home, attending St. Louis University so he could help morally support his family. Following a successful season with the Billiken's in which he was named Honorable Mention All-American and National Freshman of the Year, Larry left school early to enter the NBA.

"I think declaring for the draft was a mixture of two things," Hughes says. "I felt I was ready and wanted to move on to the highest level basketball has to offer. This frightened, and at the same time, attracted me. But leaving school early was also a result of knowing my mom needed financial help with the over-flowing amount of costs from Justin's hospital bills. Being the man of the family, I felt it was my responsibility to help out."

Larry is now the man of a different house. He and his longtime girlfriend have two young daughters. The kid who once gave a father's day card to his mother to thank her for being both a mother and father to him knows what it's like to grow up without a male role model. He's making sure his daughters have that father figure.

"My kids will be blessed like I am blessed, money or no money," Hughes says. "I wouldn't want to take the lazy way out. It's too easy to excuse yourself because of your ancestry. It takes courage to raise children. My father didn't have that, but I do."

Despite the rejection he feels from his father, Larry doesn't rule out a reconciliation.

"I don't talk to my father, but eventually I will," he says. "But I'll be different. There's too much in the past not to be. But I don't look at my father in a bad way. It was tough for him growing up. I don't have that problem with my kids. I can support my family. He couldn't do that. I don't knock him for that."

Larry has a lot of built up pain that he won't let out. He knows Vanessa was left alone with only her teenage son to support her as death closed in on her other younger son. Larry's father never felt the pain and suffering, because he was never there. Vanessa, Larry and Justin were there through it all. Their faith was like a mountain and he didn't even have a shovel with which to take it down.

Still a teenager, Larry was forced to carry a major weight on his shoulders as the man of the family; trying to support his suffering mom and his dying brother. But Larry refused to cry over his father, refused to let his father hurt him. Rather than focus on the bitterness he was feeling at his father for his absence, he directed his love toward Vanessa and Justin.

"Here was an 18-year-old kid, and he was the strongest one," Vanessa says of Larry. "He stayed so positive through everything. During that year the boys spent each of their birthdays and every holiday in the hospital. He could have been a rebellious teenager and not wanted to deal with it, but he did. Larry really grew up during that time."

Larry likes to call his clan "a non-traditional family with traditional family values." The boys grew up fatherless in a St. Louis neighborhood where wishing just brought earned disappointment. They heard the story of Vanessa's brother being killed in the streets of St. Louis; the same streets where their cousin, who Larry was very close to, was killed two years ago. Because of his life experiences, Larry feels he can get through anything. How can a poor shooting night compare to seeing your brother shrink to half his normal size, so close to death the wingtips of the angels brushed his eyes?

exa But nothing Larry goes through brings forth an outward response in him. In fact, speaking with Larry, it is difficult to obtain much of anything from him. In portraying Larry Hughes the person, you can not overlook his startlingly timid personality. His is a personality that if you were to say good morning to him, he would itch with self-consciousness. In dealing with Larry, it is easy to mistake this shy, reserved adolescent for a punk athlete who is too spoiled to speak with anyone. To assume this is a significant oversight.

If nearly everyone has his box of secret pain shared with no one, Larry's box is full. There are times he opens up, but for the most part he keeps himself set apart. An invisible wall cuts him off from the world. You can't get into him, he won't get out to you. Many wonder what goes on behind the wall, what pressures, what pleasures and achings. Those kept in the dark include Vanessa. "Larry has always been quiet," Vanessa says. "At times he was frighteningly quiet; like he left a doll to conceal his absence. I used to drive him to school when he was 12, and he would make me cry because he just wouldn't talk to me. I made thousands of efforts to get a sentence out of him, but he would never respond. I would think, 'Did I do something to him? Are you mad at me?' But he just wouldn't talk. That's just him. Everyone craves warmth and affection, but Larry chooses not to. Does he have some deep secrets? I don't know. However, though he has rarely been warm, he has never been cruel either."

"I'm quiet at times," Larry says. "I listen a lot. I'm never going to be the center of attention unless someone puts me there. It's not me; it's not my personality."

His Warrior teammates were quickly introduced to Larry's tranquil nature. In their world full of trash talkers and showboats, they were pleasantly surprised with his attitude.

"Larry keeps his thoughts to himself," Chris Mills says. "I think he's clever in that way. He's about as wide open as a fist."

"Oh yeah, he's quiet, period," Mookie Blaylock says. "Off and on the court. But that's good. That's good to have."

Despite their closeness, Larry's personality is an amazing contrast with that of his brother's. You'd think with the same upbringing and the same blood they'd be alike, but they're not. Not at all. Larry is content to be part of his world, while Justin must change it. Despite his illness, Justin is not one to walk slowly, picking his way as though he were afraid he would fall. When the world puts up fences Justin plunges through the wire. Whereas Larry hides from crowds, Justin seeks attention from them.

exa "Larry has always been an introvert," Vanessa says. "Justin likes to hug and kiss. Larry won't have anybody touch him. So for Justin to get a hug and kiss, he's got to fight Larry to do it. But he gets him. Justin always tells Larry, 'I love you, man,' but Larry will just make a funny face at him and not respond. It's interesting to watch them. They fight a lot, but they truly love each other. And Justin is thrilled when Larry tells him he loves him back. Larry is Justin's idol."

"I may not be as outgoing as he is, but I love Justin to death," Larry says. "I take care of him and in return, he respects me and gives me all of the love in the world."

He may not be the most gregarious person around, but Larry Hughes does have character. You can feel Larry when you come near him. He has a certain presence about him. His personality is one which would rather conceal itself in the shadows than have all eyes on him. Yet his attitude forces him to go out in the community, supporting kids going through organ transplants or speaking to large crowds about the importance of organ donation programs. It's his attitude that forces him to go out in front of thousands of people and showcase his talents, only because that is what it takes to accomplish his goal of becoming an NBA star.

He doesn't speak much, but he leaves people talking. It may cause you to think he's not much for conversation, but perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.

He is soft spoken with loud game. A silent earthquake on the court. If his talent continues to shine and grow on the court, fans will remember Larry Hughes for the amazing skills he showcased during his career. But what those close to Larry Hughes will always remember is the amazing effect he left off the court.

Larry wouldn't want it any other way.