PHOENIX -- Solomon Hill's four years at Arizona might've transformed his shooting stroke. He also got smarter, became a better leader.
But when the Arizona Wildcats forward visited the Phoenix Suns to work out with a group of wings that included rival Carrick Felix and North Carolina's Reggie Bullock, there was a new attitude that emanated from Hill, at least in terms of where he began as a freshman in Sean Miller's first season.
"I think college is definitely a big maturity stepping stone for most people," Hill said. "I think it really changed me. I think it really made me look at basketball in a different light. I really look at it as a business really, than just a sport."
Misperceptions are still being overcome. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough slipped and called Hill's school "AU" before correcting himself. And he seemed surprised that Hill wasn't an NBA-sized small forward playing as a power forward.
"Solomon shot the ball very well today," McDonough said. "I was impressed with his NBA three-point shooting ability. Another guy that I think will be able to defend his position and make shots. Showed some stuff off the dribble that I didn't get to see a lot at AU, or UofA, I should say."
The mislabel might be Hill's biggest issue. It didn't help that he seamlessly fit into the Wildcats' system but didn't draw the attention as the best player. But he's been aggressive in promising that he played like a wing at power forward rather than a skill-less, positionless player.
"I've always felt like a wing," Hill said. "I think I'm really catching people by surprise in some of these workouts, (they) see my ability to put the ball on the floor, stay in front of guys. But that's something I've always done. I'd rather surprise them now when I'm fighting for a job than have them coming in thinking I'm a different player."
There's that firm confidence again.
Where Hill was always one to make the right play in college, he was sometimes more reminiscent of the passive LeBron James. Of course, Hill never took flak because he's not LeBron, but the idea was the same. Hill deferred often, even when he was one of the more skilled players on the court. Even during his senior season, Hill played within himself and within the offense. Rarely did he force the issue.
In his final game as a Wildcat against Ohio State in the Sweet 16, Hill showed for a flash that he could be a go-to guy. He attacked, hit midrange fadeaways off the dribble and threw down a thunderous dunk all within a few minutes. It kept Arizona alive before the Wildcats fell in disheartening fashion on a final shot.
The point there is that Hill found his aggression. Speaking with the media on Saturday, he did that again.
He pointed out that he was effective in isolation positions, marketing himself with statistics rather than taking that California-bred, laidback approach. It was direct, not passive.
I asked Hill if he was surprised that GMs like McDonough were surprised by his guard skills.
"You hear some guys saying, 'Your first step is quicker than I thought - or your ballhandling skills,' " Hill said. "That's something I've always had. I think my agent showed me a stat, as far as isolation plays in wings, I create my own shots the most. You know, you have a lot of guys out here (at the workout) who get their shots off other players."
Hill has gone through 17 workouts and the total will reach 18 before next Thursday's draft. With travel, it's hard to believe many players could have done more than that since Saturday marked 34 days since the Chicago draft combine that ended on May 19.
He often cited that he wasn't just showing up, but competing for a job. The comments breathed of urgency, even though Hill said he wasn't worried about where he's picked.
"I've enjoyed it," Hill said. "You only get one so many chances to meet the different GMs, the scouts, the coaches, friendly faces. When somebody picks you it's going to be different. You know, they're going to be out there to get you every time you step out on the floor. You really got to enjoy every time you get to step in a practice facility, every time you get to shake somebody's hand because in a couple days you're going to be fighting for a job at the next level."
The forward also spoke about his rivalry with Felix, his draft stock and the misconceptions about his game.
(Carrick Felix) said going through the process together has kind of changed your guys' relationship.
Kind of. I think there's still that rivalry, it's still there. You don't want to get too comfortable because at the end of the day me and him are both competing for the same spot. Both wing guys, both guys that want to defend and open the floor for the team. You can get close but pretty sure on draft day, if I go first or he goes first, the other will be mad about it.
Through these workouts, just running into different guys, any memories than came up from college or do you not even have time to think about that?
You have certain memories come up from college. Working out with different guys, you kind of get a beat on them fast. You know the personnel, you have to know what they do, take away certain things from them. In situations like this, you know, when I'm going against Deshaun Thomas, I know that he likes getting it in the post, I know he likes to spotup shoot the three. I know Carrick, you have to get up under him, don't let him get the spotup shot. You just have to know who you're guarding. In the NBA, you'll have a sheet or booklet who you're guarding that night. You have to make adjustments.
Are the workouts the same?
Pretty much the same. The concepts are pretty much the same. Some teams will like to go into what they like to do. Oklahoma City was a team that really will stretch it, will put you in a position of what they like to run on offense, how they play defense. Some teams tell you that, some teams tell you 'We're not a middle drive team, force them to the help.'
You say it's going to be a battle no matter what; are you looking as far as the draft trying to get in the first round? Do you have a goal for that?
Whoever takes me, I feel like they're really in love with my game, they like what I can do. I feel like I still have potential. People say, four years of college, you don't have too much potential. You look at a guy like Brandon Roy, coming out of college, nobody thought he'd be the player he was, he matured to be. I'm only 22. LeBron's like 29, 28, he's just hitting his peak years.
You hear these people, they slate you off as other guys' potential or a guy who can contribute right now. I can contribute right now and I can get better. I'm not an old man.
I'm not drawing a comparison, but you look at a guy like Kawhi Leonard, a guy people said he couldn't shoot. Now you look at him, he's doing the little things for his team. He's getting better in a system. Danny Green got better in a system. People can always get better.