NBA Combine: Hill out to show brass he's got mettle

2013-05-16T00:00:00Z 2013-05-16T07:58:25Z NBA Combine: Hill out to show brass he's got mettleBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

While appearing in 139 games with the Arizona Wildcats, Solomon Hill played at New York, Maui, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and well as in seven NCAA tournament contests.

Every one of his games was on some sort of TV, too.

So what, exactly, can the departing UA senior show NBA folks this week at the league's Chicago combine that they don't already know?

Probably not much. But a few different eyes will be watching this time, at least. In addition to NBA scouts and GMs, who routinely travel around to watch college players, coaches not involved in the NBA playoffs are expected to be on hand this week.

"A lot of times this is the first time that head coaches and the coaching staffs are really seeing these guys," ESPN analyst Chad Ford said on a conference call Wednesday. "They are so busy during the season coaching their own teams and scouting other NBA teams they don't have a lot of time to get out and really scout these players, so this is often their exposure to this. And depending on the NBA team, some coaches have more of a say or less of a say in that drafting process, so that's big."

UA's other participant in Chicago, Grant Jerrett, probably has more to show after making a surprise decision to leave for professional basketball last month. But both Jerrett and Hill will undergo more important showcasing in the weeks ahead when they participate in individual team workouts.

Although it generates 10 hours of ESPN-family coverage, the NBA combine is decidedly lower profile than the NFL combine. While it is the only place where all of the top prospects are together, except for a few international no-shows, it features no five-on-five play. Just small group drills, skill testing, measurements and interviews.

Here's a look at the process Hill and Jerrett are going through this week:

Measurements

The 63 participants will be officially measured with and without shoes, and in areas such as wingspan, standing reach, hand size and body fat. Players are also medically tested.

In some cases, players "shrink" from the sizes they are listed at in college, giving NBA execs a more consistent, quantifiable view of their potential investments.

At an NBA seniors-only predraft event in Portsmouth (Va.) last month, UA guard Mark Lyons, was measured at 6 feet 1/4 inch, and 195 pounds, after he was listed at 6-1 and 200 at UA. Iona's MoMo Jones, listed at 6 feet even and 200 pounds as a UA freshman in 2009-10, was found to be 5-11 1/4 with 194 pounds in Portsmouth.

Skills testing

Players perform tests in vertical leap, standing jump, lane agility, while making three-quarter-court sprints and taking part in other basketball drills. Some top-rated players opt out of these tests.

"It's a little bit of a dog-and-pony show," Draft Express president Jonathan Givony said. "It's not real basketball, so the guys who stand out are the guys who look like players. So being in shape, working hard and making shots can help, but I feel like it's a temporary boost."

ESPN's Ford said the testing is important mostly in that it's the only time the top prospects will be together, "so you get to see relative size, relative athleticism, relative skill level compared to each other."

The way ESPN's Fran Fraschilla describes it, the combine really only matters when teams haven't seen a player on the court very often.

But aside from Turkish big man Enes Kanter's situation in 2011, when he missed the 2010-11 season at Kentucky and few had a chance to see him, the combine isn't that big a deal, according ESPN's Fran Fraschilla. Kanter was picked No. 3, just behind UA's Derrick Williams, in 2011.

"Teams seemed to be very impressed with how good of shape (Kanter) was in, the way he ran the floor, how hard he worked on the drills," Fraschilla said. "So it's kind of window dressing a little bit for those people that have studied these players on a year-round basis. But this is just one more slice of the pie, if you will, in terms of putting all the information together that's going to go into the draft room on June 27."

Interviewing

The prospects sit down with multiple NBA teams, who ask questions pertaining to on and off the court in a better attempt to grasp players' intangibles.

Players are also slotted to do group media interviews over a two-day period. It was during that window in 2009 that departing UA forwards Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill told the media that they were asked if they had "friends with benefits," among other things.

"They ask you about babies, have you been to jail," Budinger said then. "They just try to get in your mind and throw you off. I felt pretty confident in myself that I was on track the whole time."

As it turns out, the questioning may be as important as anything the teams learn on the court this week.

"As far as what they learn from an actual scouting perspective, I don't think there is much there," Ford said. "I think the actual interviews they do with the players are much bigger. This is the first time that they're allowed to sit down with the players and actually talk with them, they have to bring team psychologists in, and they bring the team doctors there to check them out medically.

"I think if you talk to most NBA teams, that is the thing that they get the most out of it."

On StarNet: Keep up with Wildcats basketball with Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe

NBA Combine

• Where: Chicago

• TV: ESPNU, 7-11 a.m., today and Friday; ESPN2, 11 a.m.-noon, today and Friday

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