HIGH-SCOR­ING HINTON GAINING RECOG­NI­TION FOR HIS STRONG PLAY,

The Herald Sun - - Sports - BY RON MORRIS

Frank McGuire es­tab­lished an Un­der­ground Rail­road from New York City to Chapel Hill in the late 1950s, win­ning a na­tional cham­pi­onship for UNC in ’57 with a group of play­ers that honed their bas­ket­ball skills on Man­hat­tan streets.

On a much smaller scale to­day, Shaw men’s bas­ket­ball coach Joel Hop­kins has de­vel­oped a Philadel­phia-to-Raleigh pipe­line of ta­lent. As re­cently as 2002, Flip Mur­ray weaved his game from Philadel­phia to Merid­ian (Miss.) Com­mu­nity Col­lege, to Shaw to an eight-sea­son ca­reer in the NBA.

Now comes Amir Hinton, who leads NCAA Di­vi­sion II scor­ers with more than 30 points per game on av­er­age. Af­ter two sea­sons at Lock Haven (Pa.), the ju­nior guard is in his first gor­ound at Shaw, where he con­tin­ues a quest to mesh his Philadel­phia street­ball skills into an or­ga­nized set­ting.

“I grew up on the ce­ment,” Hinton says. “Ev­ery­thing I do, ev­ery­thing I learned is from street bas­ket­ball. I didn’t have the bas­ket­ball train­ing grow­ing up. Ev­ery­thing I learned was from street bas­ket­ball and I car­ried that over to or­ga­nized bas­ket­ball.”

That trans­for­ma­tion is work­ing quite well. Hinton re­cently scored a pro­gram-record 52 points to go with seven as­sists in a loss at Tampa. His backto-back 44-point and 31point out­ings early in the sea­son earned recog­ni­tion in Sports Il­lus­trated’s “Faces in the Crowd.” And NBA scouts are be­gin­ning to take a look at him in Shaw prac­tices and games.

“Men lie, women lie, but num­bers don’t lie,” Hop­kins says of Hinton’s 32.7 scor­ing av­er­age through 11 games.

Hop­kins also points to the truth of Hinton’s well­rounded game through num­bers. Hinton av­er­ages 5 re­bounds a game in ad­di­tion to lead­ing Shaw in as­sists (5 per game) and steals (29 for the sea­son).

NBA scouts are not per­mit­ted by league rules to talk about un­der­class­men. But for­mer N.C. State player and one-time NBA scout Chucky Brown is free and happy to talk about Hinton af­ter hav­ing seen him play in one game.

“I do think peo­ple need to see him,” Brown says. “I’m not say­ing he’s a lot­tery pick or any­thing like that. I want to see him against the so-called top com­pe­ti­tion. . . . But he’s def­i­nitely worth a look. More peo­ple need to come and see him.”

In his one-time foray against “big-time” com­pe­ti­tion, Hinton scored 32 points for Lock Haven in his first col­lege game, an ex­hi­bi­tion against Penn State prior to the 2016-17 sea­son.

SCOUT­ING RE­PORT

If Brown were to file a scout­ing re­port, he says Hinton dis­plays enough ver­sa­til­ity with his 6foot-5 frame to play any of three po­si­tions ( point guard, shoot­ing guard or small for­ward) in the NBA.

Brown says Hinton spe­cial­izes in tak­ing the ball to the bas­ket and that re­sults in an NCAA-lead­ing 13 free-throw at­tempts per game. He makes 87 per­cent of those at­tempts. Brown says Hinton’s abil­ity to drive and score is well suited to an NBA game that pri­mar­ily fea­tures high ball screens and the pick-and-roll.

Brown says Hinton needs to im­prove and ex­tend the range of his jump shot. Hinton’s 28per­cent shoot­ing on 3point­ers is about 10 per­cent­age points below where it should be, ac­cord­ing to Brown.

The nat­u­ral com­par­i­son for Hinton is to Mur­ray, who helped lead Shaw to the NCAA Di­vi­sion II Fi­nal Four dur­ing the 2002 sea­son. Mur­ray was a sec­ond-round pick of the Mil­wau­kee Bucks that year be­fore av­er­ag­ing 10 points a game in an NBA ca­reer with eight teams.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween those two is this kid de­fends and Flip wasn’t go­ing to de­fend you,” Brown says. “Flip was go­ing to outscore you.”

BIG-TIME TA­LENT

Hop­kins got his first look at Hinton a year ago when Shaw dropped a 78-70 de­ci­sion to Lock Haven dur­ing an early sea­son tour­na­ment in Ship­pens­burg, Pa. Hinton scored 28 points in that game. Af­ter­ward, Hop­kins learned that Hinton was con­sid­er­ing trans­fer­ring schools.

“Good gra­cious,” Hop­kins says, “just watch­ing him play, I knew he was a big-time ta­lent.”

Hinton ul­ti­mately learned that Hop­kins had groomed Mur­ray for an NBA ca­reer and pre­vi­ously coached fu­ture NBA star Tracy McGrady at Durham’s Mount Zion Chris­tian Acad­emy.

“He’s some­where right there with McGrady,” Hop­kins says of Hinton. “Of course, he’s not a 6-8 point guard like Tracy. But he’s a 6-5 point guard who is some­where be­tween John Wall and Ray Allen.”

He also is right there with Camp­bell’s Chris Cle­mons, whose 30-plus av­er­age leads NCAA Di­vi­sion I scor­ers. The duo is vy­ing to be­come the first from the same state to lead the two di­vi­sions in scor­ing since 1989 when Hank Gathers at Loy­ola Mary­mount and Steve deLaveaga at Cal Lutheran.

“I’m a scorer,” Hinton says. “I like to score the ball. That’s my thing. I just like do­ing what I’m used to do­ing. I like to score.”

Shaw Univer­sity

Shaw star Amir Hinton leads NCAA Di­vi­sion II scor­ers with more than 30 points per game on av­er­age.

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