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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    NBA Draft 2009: The protected professional

    NBA Draft 2009: The protected professional

    NEW YORKÿ- Jordan Hill and Jawann McClellan stood side by side in the gym at Tucson’s St. Gregory’s College Preparatory School on a Sunday afternoon in late June 2007 after finishing a Tucson Summer Pro League game. They talked freely to the media, signed autographs, then shed their green Desert Toyota jerseys and made an eight-mile trip to Tucson Mall to shop for sneakers together.

    Several Arizona basketball fans approached the pair in the mall, always going to McClellan first. After all, the former McDonald’s All-American was heading into his senior year as the team’s leader. Hill was just coming out of a decent freshman year, but was still adjusting to the game, having only played it in an organized fashion for a few years.

    Times have changed since then. McClellan, 23, spent a year in Belgium before ending his career with knee trouble. Hill, on the other hand, is expected to be a top-10 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft in Manhattan, along with former UA signee Brandon Jennings. Chase Budinger, who declared for the draft last year before pulling out at the last second, is projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick.

    “”Jordan’s come a long way,”” McClellan said. “”But he’s still got a long ways to go, so that’s the scary part.””

    Hill and McClellan are still close friends, but several states separate them now. McClellan is back in Tucson finishing up classes for a religious studies major, while Hill and Budinger have spent most of the summer training with Attack Athletics in Chicago and traveling for more than 20 workouts for NBA teams between them.

    Even though they haven’t roamed the mall together in quite some time, McClellan has been able to talk to Hill about going from self-sufficiency and practical freedom at the NCAA level to having an agent as a guide and being more restricted. McClellan, who hired Stephen Pina, said it was difficult to adapt to having an agent because he had to rely on someone other than himself to take care of things on the business side. It was hard for him to keep up with everything that involved him, because he wasn’t involved first hand anymore.

    “”It’s frustrating,”” McClellan said flatly.

    Hill, who is co-represented by agents Bill Duffy and Kevin Bradbury, has started to experience the same.

    Getting ahold of the 6-foot-10 forward has been easier for McClellan than it has been for the media.

    A man named Chris, who identified himself as Hill’s manager, answers Hill’s cell phone now. When he finally put Hill through with the Arizona Summer Wildcat on Sunday after being contacted several times over the past week-and-a-half, the draft prospect said he wasn’t able to talk to the media without permission.

    “”I can’t do any interviews until I go through my public relations people,”” said Hill, who has been quiet before the media in the past, but never one to completely shun interviews.

    Hill promised a call back, but never followed through. Budinger also did not return several calls.

    McClellan said the protection is good for the prospects, especially Hill, who has been involved with minor run-ins with the law before. This process, McClellan said, will help him mature.

    “”They’re just trying to protect him right now because when he’s a pro, they won’t be able to be around him 24-7,”” McClellan said of Hill. “”He’s going to have to protect himself … I’ve told him that you can have fun, but you’ve got to pick and choose when to party and when not to party. All eyes are on you now. You’re going to have a little bit of money in your pocket. You’ve just got to be careful. Watch who’s around you and know who’s your friend and who’s not.””

    Staying in good graces with the media and the law is important for Hill, who will now be able to significantly provide for his family, which includes his child, Jordan Hill, Jr.

    The mother of the elder Hill, Carol, died from breast cancer when he was 3. He bounced around from home to home in the south, having six guardians before he finished high school.

    “”He’s progressed and he’s going to be able to do some great things to take care of his family in the future,”” said Memphis head coach Josh Pastner, who spotted Hill with Lute Olson in the AAU Kingwood Classic in Houston when Pastner was a UA assistant coach.

    “”I went through a lot, but I just loved the game of basketball, so I worked hard at it, tried to accomplish what I wanted, and I’m just trying to be a good basketball player,”” Hill told DraftExpress.com, which has him pegged as the No. 5 spot. “”The situation I’m in now, I’m thankful for it, and I can’t take it for granted, and I don’t have any regrets. All this stuff I’ve been through, I just have to keep fighting and keep going.””

    The general public has an image of an NCAA that completely controls its athletes. The truth is Hill may have been as free a person as a Wildcat than he ever will be again. There may be a day in the future when Hill accepts interviews on his own behalf again. He’ll meet up with McClellan and the duo may hit up the local mall for sneakers.

    But no matter what happens, one thing is for sure: Hill is in for a serious change.

    “”He’s going to have to protect himself, but he’s a big boy,”” McClellan said. “”I’ll pray for him and hope he’ll do well.””

    Find out what NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith has to say about former UA commitment Brandon Jennings

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