DURHAM, N.C. -- As a South Lakes High School freshman, Grant Hill was less than enthusiastic when the varsity basketball coach asked him to play on the team.

"I didn't want to play," said Hill, who was afraid of alienating his friends on the junior varsity. "I went home and cried to my parents and I said, 'I don't want to play, I don't want to play.' "

With encouragement from his father, former NFL running back Calvin Hill, the younger Hill not only went on to start all four years for South Lakes but blossomed into one of the nation's finest talents.

Now a 6-foot-7 Duke University freshman, Hill started for Coach Mike Krzyzewski as the Blue Devils opened their season last Wednesday night in the first round of the preseason NIT.

Hill is not Duke's first freshman phenom from the Washington area. W.T. Woodson's Tommy Amaker started as a freshman, and now he sits on the bench as one of Krzyzewski's assistant coaches. Mackin's Johnny Dawkins (Philadelphia 76ers) and DeMatha's Danny Ferry (Cleveland Cavaliers) moved on to the NBA after playing key roles as Duke freshmen.

During Duke's season opener against Marquette, Hill played all five positions. Although he started on the wing, he scored most of his 12 points on flashy moves inside. When sophomore Bobby Hurley picked up his third foul, Hill took over as point guard.

"Grant will just play all over," Krzyzewski said. "There's not an aspect of the game he doesn't do well. He can play point guard, he can play inside, and he's a good passer."

Hill's versatility is a reflection on his father, who was a star running back at Yale before playing for the Cowboys, Redskins and Browns. However, the elder Hill sees in his son an air of composure on the basketball court that he lacked in his football days.

"Grant probably is somewhat cooler in his demeanor," said Calvin Hill. "You could look at my face and tell exactly what I felt. He doesn't let momentary problems bother him."

Hill's great poise for a freshman has made a big impression on Krzyzewski, who has not hesitated to play him at point guard. "He thinks the game all the time, his concentration never wavers on the court," Krzyzewski said. "He has a special mind for the game, and the ability to use that mind for all 40 minutes."

That concentration extends into the classroom. Although Hill's versatile game is tailor-made for the NBA, do not expect him to leave early for the pros. Wise beyond his years about the pitfalls of professional sports, Hill has his sights set on graduate school.

"Being the son of a professional athlete, I've seen what a lot of professional athletes have gone through," he said. "At this point, I'm not too sure if really I'd like to do that. I mean the money's right, but there's a lot that's tough to handle, a lot of things that my dad experienced and a lot of his friends experienced.

"I'd like to {play professionally}, that's everyone's dream, but I know the average life expectancy in the NBA is only five or six years. There are a lot of other things more important than basketball."

South Lakes Coach Wendell Byrd was not thinking about Hill's possible NBA career when he developed him into a point guard during his senior season.

"He was one of our better ballhandlers and it gave us a lot of different looks against other teams," Byrd said. "Grant could see over the top of defenses all the time for us. When he was penetrating he had the opportunity to look over top of people and handle the pressure that other teams applied."

During his senior year, Hill averaged 29 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists and was named The Washington Post player of the year. Coming out of high school, Hill almost committed his services to another coach down Tobacco Road, North Carolina's Dean Smith.

"When I took my official visits, I came here first. I recall saying to a friend, 'Well I'm just coming here to vist but I'll end up going to UNC,' " Hill said. "I really wanted to go to North Carolina. After just coming down here and learning a little bit more about Coach K and getting a better look at the school, I realized that Duke was definitely the place."