COLLEGE AND PRO
VYPE Back Issues
VYPE NATIONAL PAGE
George Hill Settles Into a Familiar Home With Indiana Pacers
October 5, 2012VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By Brian Peloza
For VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana Pacers guard George Hill played last season with an uncertain future, knowing he was in the final year of his rookie contract.
Hill knew returning to the Pacers was a distinct possibility, but far from guaranteed. But after a stellar NBA Playoff performance Hill signed a 5-year, $40 million contract with the Pacers during the offseason.
Indianapolis will continue to be his home, not that it was ever in doubt. Playing basketball in Indianapolis is almost all Hill has known in his life. He grew up in the Circle City and became an Indiana All-Star at Broad Ripple High School.
Despite having scholarship offers from larger schools, Hill then played collegiately at IUPUI in Downtown Indianapolis, later being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft.
After three seasons with the Spurs, Hill was traded to the Pacers prior to the 2011 NBA Draft, bringing the combo guard back to his home city.
Even if it wasn’t guaranteed to last more than one year, Hill felt at ease. His new contract makes that emotion more prevalent.
“I think I was always settled,” said Hill during Indiana’s media day. “This is home for me. It didn’t matter if I was here, or if I didn’t know if I was going to be here or not, I’m still comfortable here because it’s where I’ve been my whole life. To know I’ll be here for five more years, and what I can do for the community and for this team, I’m just happy to get in gear and try to bring a title back to Indy.”
Off the court, Hill works to give back to students roaming the same hallways that he did years ago. On Thursday, he was inducted into the Indianapolis Public Schools Hall of Fame, in part for his many visits to encourage students within the district.
On the court, Hill has a career scoring average of 9.8 points per game, with a best 12.4 average during the 2009-10 season.
However, Hill played some of his best basketball in the playoffs last year. Indiana went 42-24 last season, earning the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers lost to eventual NBA champion Miami, 4-2, in the conference semifinals; and at one point held a 2-1 series edge.
In the playoffs, Hill started all 11 games and averaged 13.5 points, an increase of nearly four points from his regular season average.
This season, one goal is clear: win a championship.
“We have to win a championship,” Hill said. “If we fall short we’re going to keep climbing up that rock to get back up there. For sure everyone in this gym has their mindset on winning a championship.”
Indiana coach Frank Vogel noted the starting lineup used in the playoffs - Hill, center Roy Hibbert, forward David West, forward Danny Granger, and forward-guard Paul George - was only together for nine games during a strike-shortened, condensed regular season. Additionally, key offseason additions like Hill and West had little time to acclimate to a new offensive scheme and teammates.
“It’s very comfortable when you have a lot of your people back, and it makes training camp a lot easier where you don’t have to go over so many plays and work on breaking new guys in.”
Hill has been named the starting point guard entering this season for the first time in his five-year career. Last season he started the final nine games of the regular season, splitting time with Darren Collison.
“It means a lot and it shows hard work pays off,” Hill said. “Like I always say, you have to keep pounding that rock and anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and give it 110 percent. I’m happy they honored me with that position and job right now, and I’m going to do my best to continue to lead by example for this team.”
While he has been named the starting point guard, Hill knows job security in the NBA can be fleeting.
“I don’t think it gives you a sense of security because it’s the NBA,” Hill said. “You have to continue to play hard, work hard and play with a chip on your shoulder. I’m sure my teammates will look to me to be a leader. It feels good, but at the same time this is our job and it can be swept off your feet at any time.”
All Hill has to do is look down Indiana’s roster and see free agent signee D.J. Augustin, who started 128 games over the past two seasons with Charlotte.
“You have to compete every day, have fun out there and be the best that you can be,” Hill said. “With this team we have so many great players that anyone can step in or fill in right away.”
Vogel feels the bench is improved with additions of Augustin and others, but bringing back Hill and Hibbert were integral to maintaining championship aspirations.
“We finished the season last year feeling like a team that could win the championship,” Vogel said. “We set our sights high and then we work our butts off to try to get those goals.”