Grant Hill throws one down during his days as a South Lakes Seahawk in Reston. Now 40, Hill just retired from the NBA after 18 seasons. (Fairfax County Times) Grant Hill throws one down in 1990, during his senior season as a South Lakes Seahawk in Reston. Now 40, Hill just retired from the NBA after 18 seasons. (Fairfax County Times file photo)

Grant Hill, who grew up in Reston and attended South Lakes High School before going on to a distinguished basketball career at Duke University (two NCAA titles) and the NBA, is arguably the greatest athlete ever to emerge from Northern Virginia. (Arguments could also be made for basketball player David Robinson (Woodbridge), Olympic gold medal sprinters Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (Dale City) and Allen Johnson (Burke) and American mile record-holder Alan Webb (Reston).)(Mia Hamm (Burke), soccer, only played here for one year, or she would be the clear winner.)

Anyway, Hill retired recently, after seven all-star appearances and 18 seasons, and he gave an interview to the Fairfax County Times both looking ahead and looking back. Reporter Nick Eilerson also spoke to Hill’s former coaches at South Lakes, Wendell Byrd and Gary Hall, and the story reveals these gems:

Varsity coach Byrd wanted Hill to start for the varsity team as a 6-foot-4-inch, 13-year-old freshman. “A tearful Hill took plenty of convincing,” Eilerson writes, because he wanted to play with his friends on Hall’s freshman team. The varsity “just seemed so old to me, and I wanted to play with my friends,” Hill told him. But the freshman team went undefeated, and Hill said, “I would have messed things up if I had played.”

Hill soon began receiving stacks of recruiting letters. But rather than flash them around school, he told Hall to stash them in the backpack he left in the office because “I don’t want my teammates to get jealous,” Hall recalled.

Byrd played Hill as a forward because he was able to rebound and dunk with ease, and didn’t run plays for him. But by the time Hill was a senior, he was 6 foot 8, and Byrd used him at point guard. Though Magic Johnson would seem like the obvious role model, Hill said his was his predecessor at South Lakes, point guard Michael Jackson, who went on to pilot the great Patrick Ewing teams at Georgetown.

You can read the rest of Eilerson’s fine piece here.