Dan Clayton and David J. Smith have covered George Hill’s numbers and how he’ll fit into the Jazz’s system, and they’ve covered it wonderfully and thoroughly. As I’ve been thinking about the trade for Hill—I was initially a big fan of the trade—I’ve been curious: who is George Hill? What makes him tick? So I scoured the interwebs to try and gain insight and context for the newest, even though unofficially announced, Jazz man. At the risk of seeming like a stalker (don’t worry, Mr. Hill, I don’t live in Utah), here’s some of what makes the man a great pickup for the Jazz.
Hill attended IUPUI—Indiana University, Perdue University Indianapolis—in his hometown of Indianapolis. Though he was courted and received scholarship offers from bigger basketball programs of Temple and Indiana, Hill verbally agreed to play for IUPUI, in part so his great-grandfather, whose health was declining, could watch him play. Unfortunately, his great-grandfather passed away before school began, but Hill remembered the advice of his great-grandfather, to be a “man of his word” so he kept his commitment to IUPUI.
After Paul George broken his leg and returned home to Indiana, Hill was a frequent visitor, according to a great Vigilant Sports article:
“Just trying to keep his spirits up high,” he said of his visits. “Not much I can do, but if I can just show him that I’m here and help him out with anything that he needs, if it’s running somewhere for him and grabbing something for him, just letting him know I’m that teammate he can count on.”
“The Spurs loved Hill, and had developed him from a guy who struggled terribly in his first summer league into an above-average two-way combo guard. Hill would be due an extension after the 2011-12 season, still a year away, and the Spurs anticipated it would take between $7 million and $9 million per year to retain him. They knew it would be hard to pay Hill at that level without going far into the luxury tax.
“There were other ways to save money, and the Spurs explored them in hopes of keeping Gregg Popovich’s favorite player, Buford says. . . . Sometime near the moment Leonard stepped onto the draft lottery stage, Popovich, sitting in the Spurs draft room near Buford and Lindsey, picked up the phone. He wanted to tell Hill, whom he still calls “Georgie,” about the trade himself. It might have been the most vulnerable Buford had ever seen Popovich, Buford says. “It was so emotional. I was there. I saw it. He was incredibly emotional.” Buford wouldn’t get into the details, as is the Spurs way. “I wouldn’t do that,” he says. “But it was very difficult.”
Popovich is famously prickly, but he appreciated Hill’s play, work ethic, character, and loyalty and wanted to make sure he was the one delivering the news to Georgie himself. While that speaks volumes of Popovich’s character, I think the same assumption can be made of Hill, as well. And, as Lowe stated, Hill was an above-average combo guard; he wasn’t an all-star or a player that a team would build around, yet he had worked his way into the heart and mind of Popovich in a rare and unique way.
Utah Jazz fans have long appreciated blue-collar, hard-working players who seek team honors rather than individual honors and accolades. Hustle plays, defensive stops, diving for loose ball… those plays can endear a player to Jazz fans more quickly than a flashy dunk. Oftentimes those hustle plays are a result of hard work and a desire to do anything possible to help the team win. Though Hill used to head to Texas during the offseason, even after being traded to the Pacers, he realized that, in order to make the leap he wanted to make as a player, he needed to stick around in Indiana and work with the Pacers’ training staff. He’d spent a few years in San Antonio, and Tim Duncan’s work ethic had impressed him: first one in the gym in the morning, and the last one to leave.
Hill’s head coach at the time, Frank Vogel, praised the effort put in that summer:
“He’s doing it all,” said coach Frank Vogel. “He’s doing stuff in the morning with Yoga and some other stuff like that, and then he’s shooting for an hour and a half, and then he’s lifting. It’s a very, very extensive offseason routine, one that stacks up against any I’ve seen since I’ve been a coach. And usually when that happens, the guy comes out and has a great year. … He’s over the top right now with the hours that he’s putting in, the commitment, the movement shooting that he’s doing. He’s working as hard as I’ve ever seen him work, and that started the day after the season ended.”
In addition to all the on-court work to improve his skills—in fact, he said he was kicked out of a few gyms for sticking around too long—Hill spent hours with assistant coaches, studying film and seeing how he could be more effective guarding opposing players.
Also in that great article from Vigilant Sports is a portion about Hill’s work with basketball camps. What stood out to the author of that article is that Hill didn’t just show up for a few minutes, take a few pictures, and let coaches take over from there: he was there the whole day.
“It’s something that I always like doing,” Hill said of having his own basketball camp. “Just having fun with the kids, seeing their personalities and getting to know them. I’m also not making it just like a regular camp. Sometimes you have people doing camps where they come in for 20 or 30 minutes and show their face. When I always do my camps, I’m there the whole day. It’s not about money or any of that. It’s just about the experience, and the relationships you get by meeting the kids.”
He also started a basketball league for kids, called the G3 Rising Stars, and their name comes from 3 G’s: Guts, Grind, and Glory. What’s impressive is the emphasis placed not only on being successful on the court, but in the classroom. Much of the focus of the camp is reinforcing the importance of receiving an education, and putting the same effort and discipline learned on the court, in the classroom.
In fact, here are the Golden Rules of the league, courtesy of its website:
George Hill Rising Stars 5 Golden Rules:
Reading about George Hill over the last few days makes me think Jazz fans will absolutely embrace him. He has many of the characteristics that win fans over, and his involvement with the community will only endear him even more to fans. Also, if you haven’t checked out his Instagram account lately, he has an adorable little 6-month-old boy, Zayden, with his long-time girlfriend Samantha2.
With that beautiful little family and everything he has going on the court, I think he’ll fit right in.3