Hill: Hard work name of the game

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 12:00am

Are you going to be on the Olympic team to Sydney this year? Which opposing team do you expect to meet in the final?

No, unfortunately not, because this year I've been troubled by injuries to my ankles . . . actually I underwent surgery in April and my doctor advised me to take a long break. But I'm sure I'll be all right by the time the season begins.

I think Yugoslavia and Lithuania would be the teams to be reckoned with this year in Sydney.

You and Tracy McGrady from Toronto are joining the Orlando Magic in the coming season. Do you know McGrady? What do you make of him? And what about Andrew DeClercq from Cleveland, who is also joining the Magic?

Well I know McGrady, but I don't know him that well. But I was really impressed with him being so young - he is only 21. He is a very promising, very mature player at his age.

I think he has the potential to become a great player and I'm excited about playing with him.

DeClercq is a role player, a good role player. He plays hard; he is like Carl Malone. He is a very good player and I'm excited about playing with him too.

What do you think of Doc Rivers, head coach of Magic and NBA Coach of the Year?

He did a lot of great coaching last year and receiving the Coach of the Year award was quite an accomplishment.

I think he is a great teacher and I look forward to learning from him.

He was also an NBA player himself before he started coaching, like Larry Bird.

He used to play for the Atlanta Hawks, the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs . . . so he definitely has learned a great deal and has a lot of knowledge and wisdom to share with me.

Shaquille O'Neal took the Finals MVP last season. He used to play with the Magic, what do you think about him?

Shaq is a great player. He is a great guy, very funny and with a lot of enthusiasm.

I was actually very happy that he was given the championship because he definitely deserves it. Being a big guy, he has taken a lot of criticisms for not winning. I'm happy for what he has achieved and I hope we can beat him next year, ha ha.

You took out a full page ad in the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News to thank the De troit fans and the players and staff of the Pistons for their years of support for you. In ret rospect, what are the most un forgettable things during your six years with the Pistons?

The most unforgettable things . . . I would say were the relationships that were developed in Detroit with my teammates, friends of mine, with the organisation, with fans . . . friendships that were developed with the people I met in Detroit; many became my close friends . . . and my wife - I met my wife in Detroit. A lot of good things happened there.

I look forward to moving to Orlando and hope there'll be a lot of good things happening to me down there as well.

Have you ever thought of switching to other types of sport, such as baseball or foot ball, like what Michael Jordan did several years ago?

No, I haven't. I enjoyed tennis; I enjoyed playing soccer when I was younger.

Ever since I was 14, I've stuck with basketball. I enjoy and I love basketball; that's why I spend a lot of time practising, improving my skills with any opportunity, no matter whether I'm at a court in Hong Kong or at a court in Orlando, or at home, because I love basketball.

In your opinion, what quali ties does it take to make a first- class basketball player?

You have to have some natural abilities, such as good size, speed and so forth. Besides these, I think it is hard work.

It takes respect, respect for the game, respect for yourself and for your opponents.

And I think it takes commitment; you have to be committed to being excellent; you have to understand and try to be professional.

This applies whether you are a basketball player, a journalist or a photographer; you have to be committed to excellence and you have to be professional all the time.

How would you compare basketball fans in the US and in Asia?

There are a lot of similarities. Fans here know everything that is going on.

I think the one difference is that maybe because here in Hong Kong they don't get a chance to see NBA athletes as often as fans do in the States that when an NBA athlete does come over, they even get more excited. But they're really knowledgeable about NBA games.

Which team will you take as the major opponent in the com ing season?

I don't know . . . the NBA season is so unpredictable. It's hard to predict who's going to be good and who's is going to be bad.

But if I were to go by the results last year I would say, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana; they made it to the finals. And New York, Portland, San Antonio, Utah, Miami - they had done a good job last season.

What is your advice for our young readers, especially those who aspire to become profes sional basketball players?

I would advise them to work hard. Basketball is a commitment; it is something that I've dedicated my life to.

When I was 14 years old, I committed myself to basketball. I played everyday; I played all day.

So I would encourage them to really work hard and try to get the proper instruction; get a good coach who can show you some fundamentals, do your best and try to become the best that you can become.

Can you suggest some ways by which we can improve our basketball standard?

I think it takes time. We've been playing basketball in the US for a long long time. The game is relatively new to countries in Asia.

As young kids . . . are exposed to basketball and start playing at an early age and have the opportunity to learn more about the game and get more experience, you will see vast improvements.

Five-time NBA All-Star forward Grant Hill is a household name among basketball fans. After winning two NCAA championships, Hill joined the Detroit Pistons in 1994. Named Co-Rookie of the Year during the 1994-95 season, Hill was the first rookie in NBA history to lead the league in All-Star votes. In the following year, he again led the league with 1,358,004 votes. He was picked for the American Dream Team and bagged a gold for the United States at the Atlanta Olympic Games. As he enters the next season with his new team, the Orlando Magic, he hopes to fulfil his dream - winning the NBA championship.

Name: Grant Hill

Birthday: October 5, 1972

Birthplace: Dallas, United States

Occupation: Basketball player