This summer when then Pacers point guard, George Hill, received news he was being traded to the Jazz, the Indiana native was shocked.
“Last time I checked, I was supposed to retire from Indiana,” Hill said per Vigilant Sports writer Scott Agness. “Very surprising, but I know this is a business and anything can happen. So, I’m not upset about it.”
Yet what isn’t surprising to those close to Hill is his even keel response to his new circumstances. “I think I’m in a great situation here. I’m here, somewhere where I feel wanted right now.” In a media day interview with David Locke and Ron Boone, Hill was asked to give them “some dirt” on the George Hill. He simply replied, “What you see is what you get. And he’s not going to change for anybody.”
The laid-back point guard’s son, Zayden, may be the only exception to that rule. Hill surprised some fans and teammates by sporting bright blonde hair early last season. Apparently one unsolicited review carried a little more weight for him than the others. According to Hill, a couple months after Zayden was born, he would look up at his dad, fix his gaze on his hair, and then burst into tears. That reaction was enough to prompt Hill to get a haircut the next day.
Hairstyles aside, it’s Hill’s levelheaded demeanor that gives the Jazz front office good reason to trust him to mentor younger players, especially Dante Exum. Exum’s ACL injury prevented him from playing his second year, but now the young guard is eager to be back on the court. After the first day of training camp Exum told the media he appreciated Hill pointing something out to him during practice. When asked why he was so keen to help Exum, Hill said, “That’s just how I am. I came from San Antonio and Indiana [and] when I first got to San Antonio I was a young rookie who didn’t know any better and Tim [Duncan] did the same thing with me, put his arm around me and kind of led me…, and as a rookie I needed that. So I knew that, me, coming in, that’s what we need here and if I see something that makes his game a little better I’ll try to do that.”
Jazz coach, Quin Snyder, and general manager, Dennis Lindsey, both have a firsthand appreciation for Hill’s early days learning the NBA ropes. As an assistant general manager for the San Antonio Spurs, Lindsey helped draft Hill in 2008. At the time Snyder was the coach of the San Antonio Spurs D-League affiliate, the Toros. Hill describes himself as “Quin’s project” that year. The two of them worked out together everyday. Certainly Snyder learned a thing or two about Hill’s character in that environment and must have liked what he saw.
Part of why Snyder wants him in Utah eight years later, at least by Hill’s own estimation, is because, “I want to win and it’s not about self-accolades or stats for me. It’s about at the end of the game, are we winning? I think that’s something that he admires and I’m just trying to do my job.”
His team-first attitude and vision don’t just impress on the basketball court though. He extends those skills to seeing and serving those who might otherwise remain on the periphery of the community. Outside of basketball, giving back has been his main focus throughout his career.
The NBA awarded Hill the October Kia Community Assist Award in 2013, for his work with Kids Against Hunger preparing and distributing 59,686 meals for kids in his hometown of Indianapolis and across the world. Part of his involvement with Kids Against Hunger included traveling to Haiti to offer basketball camps and further distribute food for those in need.
Hill’s former coach, the Indiana Pacers’ Frank Vogel, spoke highly of his community involvement, “George Hill does more in the community than anybody that I’ve ever been around in this league. I’ve been around a lot of people that have been very supportive and helpful in the community, but you almost have to rein George back because often he’s doing too much. He has a giving heart…”
In a recent conversation with David Locke, Hill said, “Winning the Community Assist award for the whole year, not just a month is my goal. I’d rather take that than a Sixth Man of the Year Award or Most Improved, especially [with] what’s going on in the world today. I think we need to share the love and give back and build a bright future for the people ahead of us.”
Weeks before donning a Jazz jersey, Hill has immediately begun to do just that for the Utah community. Earlier this month he organized three free basketball clinics at the Jazz practice facility for 240 kids with the help of his longtime friend, Lone Peak basketball coach, David Evans. He spent time with the kids individually, helping them hone their skills, taking pictures and conversing with their families.
“I’m blessed to be able to play basketball and to be able to have basketball as a job. But it’s bigger than what I do on the court. It’s not wholly who I am,” Hill said in an interview with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune regarding the clinics.
Three days later Hill was back at it again, in the community serving what he called “my new city,” and encouraging his Instagram followers to do the same and share.
Impacting Lives is Something I Strive To Do Everyday. Whether Its A Smile, Hug, Conversation, Picture Or Simply Spreading The Love…. Well As I Was Walking Last Night With My Family In My New City (Salt Lake City). I Noticed A Large Group Of Men, Women And Even Children. But The Group I Noticed Maybe Had A Blanket, A Cart Filled With Things, Dirty Clothes, And Wasn’t Sure When Their Last Meal Was… So Why Not Make That My One Good Deed Of The Day And Impact A Couple Lives. So Went To Wendys And Grabbed A Bunch Of Cheese Burgers, Fries Bought Some Bottled Waters And Walked Down Rio Grande Till We Reached A Park Up The Street And Passed Out Hot Meals And Mingled. Had A Great Time Listening To Some Of Their Stories… So I Challenge Everyone To Spread The Love And Do A Good Deed Once A Day. DM Me Some Of Your Good Deeds And I Will Start Posting Some Of Your Impactful Stories. Together We Can Spread The Love… #GoodDeeds #ImpactingLives #SpreadTheLove
As this season gets underway, Jazz fans have reason for optimism— a healthy roster, a talented young core balanced by experienced veterans, and the prospect of a return to the playoffs. These hopes are rightly fueled in part by the arrival of George Hill, but in the brief time he’s been in town he’s already shown he doesn’t need to step on the court to prove he’s on our community’s team.
“You can only play basketball for so long, but what you do in that matter of time, on that platform is what you’re really going to be known for.”
I always told myself if I ever made it I’d want to be that guy kids can look up to and be a positive role model on and off the floor and give back to the community, so I try to do that, Hill said. “That’s what I’m about and it’s going to continue to be that way.”