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Jordan Hill: The NBA Draft's bounce-back player
Arizona power forward has shown ability to recover on and off the court
By MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer
Published: June 17, 2009
Lottery pick? There was a time he wasn't even on college coaches' radars.
Hill lived in four different residences with six different caregivers. He was 3 years old when his mother died of breast cancer.
"He's been through so much," said Kevin O'Neill, Arizona's interim coach during Hill's sophomore season. "He has the ideal NBA mentality. He's resilient. If he has a bad game he'll bounce back quickly."
Draft projections for Hill certainly bounce around. Slotted as a solid top-10 pick, he projected as low as 10th to the Milwaukee and as high as No. 5 to Washington. Before the draft lottery, some projections had him going to the Thunder, though its less likely he'd be OKC's pick at No. 3 now.
But if Thunder general manager Sam Presti trades down, Hill could be one of his top options.
The 6-foot-10 power forward was the first Arizona player in 30 years to average a double-double (18.3 points, 11.0 rebounds).
"He came light years this past season," said one Eastern Conference scout. "He was one of the most improved players in the country. If he continues that type of growth somebody is going to get a really good player."
As the son of a truck driver, Hill was raised by a grandmother, a brother and a sister before Keith and Franzetta Ivy, of Atlanta, became his legal guardians.
His big break came with Keith Ivy's son connected with Hill during a Spanish class at North Springs High School. That friendship led to a better environment. It also led to an opportunity with an Atlanta AAU team, which is where Hill got noticed.
Keith Ivy introduced Hill to Gary Graham, who coached the Smyrna Stars. College coaches suddenly took notice of the kid who would still need a year at Patterson Prep School in North Carolina just to become eligible at Arizona.
"Jordan's a great feel-good story for anyone willing to dream and anyone that believes in the power of love and prayer," Graham told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Outside of Blake Griffin, he might be as close to being ready for the demands of an 82-game schedule as anyone else in this draft," said one scout. "There are not many guys in this draft with his size, length and athleticism. He should make a significant impact as a rookie."
O'Neill, who is helping compile draft analysis reports for the Memphis Grizzlies, said Hill has better shooting range than given credit and could play a few minutes each game at center.
"He needs to add a little more bulk and a couple more go-to moves in the post," O'Neill said. "But he's made such leaps and bounds that once he concentrates on just basketball he's going to keep getting better."
Hill's draft stock has yo-yoed the past two weeks. Some reports earlier this month had Hill slipping to 10th or lower. A week before the draft, speculation is Hill could go as high as No. 4, no later than No. 8 to the Knicks.
No one would have projected Hill would be a top 10 pick a few years ago when he was shuffled from residence to residence. He played only two years of high school basketball and played for three different coaches at Arizona.
"A lot of people would have cracked," said Franzetta Ivy. "To lose his mother, then have his father and stepmother travel a lot, to staying with us, he literally was by himself (at Arizona).
"He has never gotten into any trouble. He'll be a good role model for kids. He's matured a lot. Going to Arizona, far from home, and improving both in school and in basketball, speaks volumes."
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