By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 19, 2009
Jordan Hill had Washington Wizards assistant Sam Cassell trapped under the basket. His arms were raised high, giving Cassell an imposing nine-foot reach to shoot over.
The 6-foot-3 Cassell whipped out a move he clearly had learned from his days playing alongside Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. He lifted the ball toward the rim, coercing Hill to jump, then spun back counterclockwise on his pivot foot to drop a hook shot over Hill.
"They don't do that in the Pac-10," Cassell shouted with a laugh.
Hill, a 6-10 junior forward from Arizona, chuckled and shook his head, dreadlocks bouncing, sweat dripping from his chin. One week from fulfilling a dream and hearing NBA Commissioner David Stern call his name at the draft, Hill was introduced to the "Dream Shake."
Rated as the best big man in this draft not named Blake Griffin or Hasheem Thabeet, Hill spent an hour trying to convince the Wizards that they should use the fifth pick on a still-developing talent who didn't play organized basketball as a high school junior. Hill, 21, also has worked out for Golden State and New York and has sessions set up with Milwaukee and Memphis, which holds the No. 2 overall selection.
A former baseball player who outgrew the bat and glove and discovered a new passion, Hill is still amazed that he went from being an unheralded high school recruit to suddenly being a highly coveted top 10 pick after leading the Wildcats to a surprising appearance in the NCAA tournament round of 16. And, if not for an impressive game at an AAU tournament in Houston, former Arizona coach Lute Olson may have never spotted him and offered him a scholarship.
"I came from nothing and now I'm on the radar," said Hill, who averaged 18.3 points, 11 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots last season. "I never thought I'd be here, but I never doubted myself. I never stopped working hard."
Hill's inspiration can be found tattooed on his left and right shoulders. On his right shoulder is an image of his 3-year-old son, Jordan Jr., and on the left is one of his mother, Carol, who died of breast cancer when Hill was just 3.
"I don't remember my mom that well. I heard that she was a wonderful lady. I miss her," said Hill, who had six primary caregivers before finishing high school. "This is definitely dedicated for her. I know she's looking down and she's seen what I went through."