PHOENIX – Solomon Hill is used to waiting his turn. He did at the University of Arizona and now is doing so with the Indiana Pacers, who made the former Wildcat the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Hill has played only 17 games this season, and scored two points in six minutes in the Pacers’ 124-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns Wednesday — his first action since Dec. 8, 2013.
“It would be great to be out there playing basketball and clocking big minutes,” he said. “But everything has its price. You clock a lot of minutes now — wear and tear on your body, who knows what happens. You’re not a part of a winning organization. Things may not turn out your way. You might be out there playing 40 minutes, but you’re taking a lot of losses. I’m used to being with a winning program. Patience is everything here. I’m just happy to be out here with these guys.”
Hill sees what being patient has done for teammates Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson; all guys who were drafted, but did not enjoy consistent success early. They all put in the work to get where they are, which is starting for the No. 1 team in the league, each averaging double digits in points.
“You just stay with it, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to stay with it,” Hill said.
It’s not unlike what he did during his four years at the UA, when from his freshman year to his senior year he doubled his scoring average (6.7 to 13.4 points per game), going from playing 25 to 33 minutes per game.
The environment in Indiana has helped ease the move from college star to NBA rookie.
“I kind of like look at it as the same thing like being with Arizona,” said Hill, who catches one of his alma mater’s games every chance he gets. “Coach (Sean Miller) is preaching team basketball, and here we preach team basketball. It’s not going to be one guy. We have some guys that stick out, but the whole team collectively chips in and that’s why we do what we do. It’s an easy transition. It’s a team concept. All you have to do is come in and earn your keep.”
Despite the lack of in-game court time, the time Hill is spending before, during and after practice has gotten the attention of the Pacers front office.
“Same thing we said about Miles (Plumlee) last year, we’re saying about him,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. “(Team president) Larry (Bird) in particular. Larry is very, very high on him. When he gets his opportunity, he’s going to kill it if he has to play 15-20 minutes a game.
“When he played some D-League earlier in the year (and averaged 17 points, three rebounds and three assists in two appearances in Fort Wayne) Larry was like, ‘Look, it’s going to be good for him to get some reps, but he said ‘you need to make sure with him and with the media and everybody that’s listening that hey, it ain’t anything about us being down on Solomon Hill.’ For a rookie, he’s not a kid. He’s very mature. He’s got a solid game, very confident. He’s just one of those guys that when you look at, like baseball teams have prospects and a farm system, you’re excited about. We’re excited about Solomon Hill.”
Hill, likewise, is excited about Indiana and the opportunity that waits, no matter how long it may take.
“It’s hard to complain on the best team in the NBA right now,” he said.