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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Improvements to come for former Wildcats

    LAS VEGAS – Knicks forward Jordan Hill’s performance in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League paralleled the path most rookies take in their first NBA season.

    In some instances he appeared to be headed for a superb rookie year, and then there were the times that he looked like a work in progress.

    The former Wildcat finished the summer league averaging 14.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in five games. His best performance came Sunday in the Knicks’ final summer league game, in which he had 21 points and 7 rebounds.

    “”My energy level was high, but I have to get better with my rebounding and defense,”” Hill said after the 84-89 loss to the Washington Wizards. “”The NBA level is a lot different; you’re playing against stronger, bigger and quicker guys.””

    Though Hill is a perfect fit in Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense, some of his weaknesses showed while going up against 6-11 power forward Jason Thompson on July 17. Thompson, who outweighs Hill by 15 pounds, often pushed the rookie out of position on the offensive end, resulting in his lowest scoring output of the summer league, 8 points.

    “”He’s a good player, he came out here and did his thing so I have to be ready next time,”” Hill said. “”I definitely have to get stronger. I especially have to get my core stronger, and when I get back to New York, I’m going to get started on that.””

    Since being drafted eighth overall in June, Hill’s ability to run the floor and finish at the rim has often brought comparisons to all-star power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who played under D’Antoni for five seasons with the Suns.

    “”He flies up the floor,”” said Knicks assistant coach Phil Weber, who served as the summer league head coach. “”In this initial stage in his career, he’s a lot like Amar’e.

    “”He’s a young player. Right now he’s trying to get comfortable with things that we do,”” he added. “”With big guys it’s hard to fill in because it’s a whole new ball game, but he’s a great fit to our team.””

    Now that the summer league has concluded, Hill knows that he must prepare for the tough challenges that lie ahead.

    “”I’m definitely having a lot of fun but this league is not easy, so you definitely have to be ready for it,”” Hill said. “”I’m going to go home for a couple weeks then I’m going to head to New York in the middle of August to get ready for the season.””

    Hill has even impressed former Wildcat and current Suns General Manager Steve Kerr, who says he follows all Arizona players closely.

    “”We (former Wildcats) stick together,”” Kerr said. “”I keep my eye on Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless. I pull for the guys when they’re not playing against us.

    “”Jordan has a bright future, he’s a really good shooter, he’s a good finisher around the basket and he’s going to be a good player in the league for a long time.””

    Bayless adjusting to playing point guard

    Portland Trail Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless was the MVP of the 2008 Las Vegas Summer League and averaged 29.8 points and 1.3 assists.

    He played off the ball, looking to score on every given opportunity. But this year, he has been asked to get his teammates more involved as he makes the transition from shooting guard to point guard.

    “”We want to give him time at point guard position, we want him to make decisions with the ball and run the team,”” said Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.

    The point guard position is known to be the most difficult position for players to learn and the learning curve for the former Wildcat has been everything but easy.

    “”I’m using this summer league as a tool for next year to get better,”” Bayless said. “”I’m trying to run this team and put people in their spots and get them open shots.””

    Bayless often struggled during the summer league, trying to determine when it was time to score and when it was time get his teammates involved. His learning curve was evident with the 6.25 turnovers he averaged each game.

    “”He’s done some good things at the point, but he’s still trying to get comfortable with it,”” McMillan said. “”Sometimes you can see him thinking when to score and when to set up.””

    In the upcoming season, Bayless’ minutes should increase from the 12.2 minutes he averaged in his rookie season considering the Blazers traded back-up point guard Sergio Rodriguez to the Sacramento Kings.

    “”The opportunity is there for him to play,”” McMillan said. “”We feel he can help us. It’s going to be a learning curve for him because learning the point guard position is a huge task, and with time, I think he will do alright.””

    Though the summer league is now over, Bayless, who is one of 23 NBA players to be invited to participate in a mini-camp for the U.S. national team, will attend a two-day practice session and a Saturday scrimmage in Las Vegas.

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