Vaught's Views: Hill learning true meaning of life inside UK bubble

March 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

ATLANTA - Since he grew up in a basketball family, Cameron Hill thought he understood what Kentucky basketball meant.

Once he joined UK coach Tubby Smith's staff this season, he found out he was wrong.

"It's hard to prepare yourself for what it is like. There is such tremendous fan following and commitment to the program from everyone," Hill said. "It's wonderful to be part of this, but you absolutely have to be here and be part of it to have a frame of reference to how unbelievable it is. From an outside perspective, you can see a lot, but once you are part of this program you get a whole new idea what it is like."

Hill was here Thursday to watch Georgia's 73-59 win over Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Tournament because the Wildcats now play Georgia in their tourney opener this afternoon.

Hill is in his first year as director of player development at Kentucky. He's the son of former Fordham coach Bob Hill and spent the previous three years working as an assistant coach under his father. Before that, he played two seasons of professional basketball overseas.


Smith sent his own son, Saul Smith, and Hill here Wednesday to represent UK at the SEC Youth Clinic. Since Hill was already here, he volunteered to watch Thursday's Georgia-Auburn game to see if he could detect any tendencies or new trends that might have been added to today's scouting report.

"I have not actually done any scouting reports, but I am assisting in almost every facet of what is happening in the program," Hill said. "If someone needs something, I help. I've done game preparation in the past, so even though that is not in my job description, I am still always there to help."

Mainly, though, he's been at Kentucky to learn under Smith and hopefully enhance his own coaching career. He says the daily responsibilities Smith has given him have been beneficial, but he's learned even more just observing the UK head coach.

"I get to watch him every day, study what he does, see how he prepares," Hill said. "I think he is the best in the country and getting more out of his players than what people expect. To see that work being done on a daily basis has been an unbelievable experience for me."

Smith can be firm and still get players to respect him

Hill says Smith demands so much from players that they have to improve. He's also been impressed with the way Smith can be firm and still get players to respect him.

"They understand that he knows what he is doing," Hill said. "There is a genuine trust because they know what he is doing is for their best interest. They may not always like what he says or does, but they know it is something that will eventually make them better.

"And he does an unbelievable job of sticking to his guns. What he wants to get done, he gets done. It didn't take me long to learn that."

It also didn't take him long to learn that nothing was off limits in the Big Blue Nation.

"It's really hard to keep a secret around here," he said. "It's hard to keep something out of the headlines. People just have a genuine love for the program. It adds pressure, but great people perform under pressure."

Hill thinks Smith has his team peaking at the perfect time. However, he sensed months ago that UK could be a special team.

"From the first day I got here I thought it was a situation that could absolutely blossom into something very special," Hill said. "I was impressed with the desire and work ethic the kids brought to the practice floor starting with individual workouts. If you have that, in my experience, you have more than most programs. Our guys wanted to work and win games."

Hill credits Kentucky's recent resurgence to the improved play of point guard Cliff Hawkins and center Erik Daniels. "They are really playing efficient basketball. You always want to build your team up the middle and they have really been playing well lately," Hill said.

Hill isn't sure what he'll be doing next year. He obviously would like to be a full-time assistant again, but he also remembers Smith saying that the jobs a coach doesn't take can play a bigger role in his legacy than the jobs he does accept.

"You don't want to get overzealous and jump at any job if it is not the right time or situation," Hill said. "I just have to wait and see what jobs open.

"I am in a great situation here. I love what I do. I feel like the things we are doing here are for the right reasons and are done the right way. There are a lot worse things than spending another year working in Kentucky."

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