The Indiana Pacers wanted their rookie first-round pick, Solomon Hill, to work on his game in the D-League. But they still left it up to him and, even though some NBA players might shudder at the thought, he embraced it.
In his debut with the Mad Ants on Monday night at Memorial Coliseum, Hill was solid with 19 points, second on the team only to Ron Howards 23.
I was looking forward to just the conditioning aspect, Hill said after a 103-101 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Making shots on a regulation court with referees, playing the game, its different than just practicing and going over drills over and over again. Youre actually putting it into a game. I wanted to be out here, running up and down the floor, showing that I can keep up with the pace.
Hill, 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, who played in college at Arizona, was assigned to Fort Wayne (6-7) on Sunday, and he made 6 of 12 shots and had five assists.
With the Pacers, he had averaged 1.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 9 minutes over 16 games, but he hadnt played since Dec. 8 and lost his roster spot when Danny Granger returned from injury.
After Sioux Falls (11-3) was led by Justin Hamiltons 31 points and Bill Walkers 26, Hill talked about the need to improve on his defense.
I cant be too overly aggressive on defense, said Hill, who should have at least one more game with the Mad Ants on Friday against Iowa. I got myself in foul trouble and took myself out of the game. And Ive got to cut down on turnovers. All in all, other than that, I played a pretty decent game.
Hill had the support of three teammates from the Pacers – Chris Copeland, Donald Sloan and former Fort Wayne player Orlando Johnson – who drove up to watch the game from courtside seats.
It was good to see those guys come up, Hill said. Especially since were competing for a championship (with the Pacers), to have guys come on their off day to support me, its a big thing.
The Mad Ants trailed by as many as 22 points in the second quarter, but a Howard jump shot with 44.8 seconds left in the third tied it at 77.
The Skyforce quickly went back up by four, but a Hill dunk tied it at 93 with 2:50 remaining in the fourth quarter. After another Sioux Falls run, a Howard jumper with 19 seconds left trimmed the Skyforce lead to 1 at 100-99.
Down two with 2.4 seconds remaining, the Mad Ants coughed up the ball and didnt get a chance to force overtime.
With the addition of Hill, the Mad Ants have three players assigned by NBA teams, including the Detroit Pistons Tony Mitchell, who had nine points and a game-best nine rebounds, and Peyton Siva, who sat out with a wrist injury.
Well, Ive got to do a better job of getting everybody more acclimated, said Mad Ants coach Conner Henry, whose team has lost back-to-back games on the heels of a five-game winning streak.
Its clear were going through some growing pains with the additions of some guys. Theyre great guys and they work hard.