Perhaps long ago it was projected that Solomon Hill would be drafted in the first round. But ever since first donning Arizona’s cardinal and navy, things have seemed to be an uphill (no pun) battle for him.
First it was his weight. Arriving on campus soft if not big and in the doghouse with first year coach, Sean Miller. Hill had sights on playing the two-guard while Miller was questioning if he’d play at all. In that freshman campaign, the aspiring two connected on just four three pointers at a 22% clip. By the time he left Tucson, he would make 111 more at a 38% clip. And though he wanted to be a two-guard, his team needed him to be a forward. So he did that; leading the team in rebounding in 2011-12 as the team’s second tallest contributor. The following season, Miller and the Wildcats needed him to do everything. Once again he did, finishing amongst the top-3 Wildcats in nearly every statistical category.
The consummate teammate, Hill worked hard his entire Arizona basketball career and on Thursday night he saw the fruits of his labors.
Solomon Hill was drafted twenty-third overall by the Indiana Pacers. The first round.
Quickly, he was welcomed to the league:
— Sean Miller (@UACoachMiller) June 28, 2013
I can’t welcome a teammate at this point…. So welcome to the league Solomon Hill!!! #beardown
— Andre Iguodala (@andre) June 28, 2013
Congrats to @kingxsolo on becoming a first round pick of the Pacers. Heart and soul of Arizona basketball the past few years.
— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) June 28, 2013
YEAAAA SOLO!!! Man you don’t know how happy I am right now … My roommate for two years .. He improved so much man .. This is crazy.
— Derrick Williams (@RealDwill7) June 28, 2013
Hill is Miller’s first four-year player to be drafted, a momentous occasion for his proclaimed Player’s Program. Such a talent and meaningful component will undoubtedly be missed.
I, for one, enjoyed watching every bit of the aforementioned development. Each October it looked as if a new player had arrived, energized to be the best player he could be to make his team the best it could become. It near broke me as his most valiant of efforts to come back against the Ohio State University didn’t quite shine.
Floor, meet all of it. Hill’s MO whilst in Tucson.
Alas, this isn’t a post-mortem, it’s a celebration of the kid’s hard work. Bravo, Solo. The Pacers are getting a tremendous worker as mentioned but perhaps, more importantly, they are subtly piecing together a very modern basketball team. They’re compiling the pieces to become a conglomerate of versatile and large defenders. A tone set by the two-time champion Heat and swiftly being adopted across basketball (see: 2012-13 Ohio State Buckeyes, Kawhi-love, Pacers roster).
A closing anecdote:
I was presented with a late arriving invitation to last season’s basketball media day. My first access to credentials, I promptly let work know I was sick while spending the vast majority of media-day-eve preparing myself to ask a plethora of questions. And when finally faced with my moment to confront Solomon – he was alone at the Arizona circular, banquet-style, luncheon table – I anxiously approached. My prepared question somewhere amongst my notes but dancing top of mind.
“Solomon! I’m Adam Butler with SB Nation, how are you today?”
“Good man, how are you?”
Did he just bother to ask me how I was? Indeed I was caught off guard but had question, top of mind. A mission.
“Solomon, I’m from Tucson and I’ve just go to know: Nico’s or Beto’s?”
A brief silence ensued as the 22-year-old contemplated my asinine request to understand for which local taco shop he held an affinity.
“Never been to either one, actually. Heard they’re good, though?”
Never had this collegian been to Tucson’s most notorious – and fantastic – late night dining.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s why he’s headed to the league.