The way Solomon Hill describes his life these days, you're more likely to see him walking his poodle on the UA Mall than lounging at a late-night party.
It's not that the Arizona Wildcats senior forward doesn't enjoy having fun. It's just that Hill is aware what having too much fun off the court can do to a college basketball career, and he's trying to make sure his younger teammates know it.
"The guys are changing from high school to college, and the social life is there, the partying is there, the after-hours spots are there," Hill said during the Pac-12's preseason media day event in San Francisco last week. "I just tell the guys to put your talents to hard work. … Those parties will always be there, your friend will always be there for you to go out, but it's about, 'Where are you at two o'clock in the morning?'
"Anytime you're out there, especially with all the social media that's going on and the phones, a quick picture (taken) past one o'clock with some alcohol in your hand, and you're misrepresented. (I need to) get guys to understand that."
Hill said UA coach Sean Miller often has spoken of off-court situations that can quickly derail players, and Miller didn't need to look far for examples last season:
Then-freshman point guard Josiah Turner was suspended twice for rules violations and left the team after the season, and forward Sidiki Johnson was dismissed in December.
Miller said those real-life examples made his message easier to get across, but he's also grateful to have Hill passing them on, too.
"It's the players who have gone through hundreds of practices, that have been in big games, that have played in championship type of atmospheres; they're the ones that are the most meaningful," Miller said. "Both on and off the court (Hill has) done an exceptional job. To me, he's the leader by example on a daily basis with our program."
After his podium interview at the Pac-12 media day, Hill discussed his philosophy in detail with the Star. Among other things, he said:
Players can't assume they're good enough to slack off.
"I just feel like some guys are different. Guys like Derrick (Williams), when the lights came on he was a whole different guy, an NBA player. But other guys can't do that. They can't relax in practice and during the game be a whole different player. You look back on it and you wish you could spend more time in the gym. I've watched guys put their social life in front of basketball, and you only get the social life because you're good at basketball."
Early adulation can lead to complacency.
"I watched (onetime top-rated big man) Renardo Sidney, who came from my high school (Fairfax High School of Los Angeles). I watched him through the years, saw him being investigated (by the NCAA) and then saw all the people that he was ranked with keep working, and they're playing in the NBA. … You can always be something in the beginning and end it a different way."
Players can sometimes get the message across better than coaches.
"You can get it from a coach's standpoint, but it's easier to understand it from a player's point of view. You really don't get the gist of it. You're a freshman, and you think, 'Well, every coach says that and I can still have fun and make it.' But once you hear from a player who's been there in the low points and the high points, and tells you face to face, and plays with you side by side, that's a whole different level of understanding. You start to believe it."
Miller's message is about putting yourself in safe situations.
"We don't want to be in the car with somebody who has marijuana or has been drinking. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where the next morning you're on the front page of the paper. You might not have done anything, but you're guilty by association in certain cases. Have a buddy, have somebody to watch your back all the time. Put yourself in a good position and be responsible.
"Between school and basketball, you shouldn't have that much time. I can understand playing a video game or two, but it's a bigger picture. Your family supports you. You have a school that's given you a scholarship worth thousands of dollars. You've got fans who come out and support you. And for four years or less, you need hard work and dedication to be a part of that. If you can't sacrifice for that, then how do you expect an NBA team will be willing to look at you?"
Continuity puts the current UA freshmen in better hands.
"The difference between my freshman year and Grant (Jerrett)and Brandon (Ashley) is that Jamelle Horne (a junior in 2009-10) was not in the situation that I am in now. There was a new coach, a new way of doing things (in 2009), so in a sense he was out teaching himself. And we didn't have any older guys teaching us the ropes. Now I've got Grant, I've got Kaleb (Tarczewski), I got (freshman guard) Gabe York and I'm going to teach them. Now they have a better understanding of what to expect in practice instead of going in and having no knowledge about it.
"Those guys are McDonald's All-Americans, Jordan Classic guys, and some of those guys might not be here for four years like I am. But if you want to be that guy who leaves early, you have to buy into the team now and sacrifice the time now to put in the work, to earn that right to go to the Final Four."
The character of this year's UA freshmen makes it easier.
"That's what I love about this class. There's no egos with them. Those guys are always at practice on time, and that makes it a fun atmosphere. When your whole team is ready to learn, that makes it a fun atmosphere."
On StarNet: Keep up with the Wildcats as the season begins with Bruce Pascoe's blog at:
• Who: Chico State at Arizona, exhibition
• When 6:30 p.m. Tuesday