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Solomon Hill Unfazed by Rookie Duties

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

January 22, 2014

What requires a player to make stops for video games, donuts, orange soda, and lotion?

Rookie duties.

It’s an annual thing on a team, or even within an organization. Each season, there’s typically at least one rookie added to the roster as teams make the most of what they can under the salary cap while also planning for the future.

“I leave that up to the players,” said coach Frank Vogel. "I trust our leaders to not do anything that crosses the line of professionalism but I’m all in favor of making rookies do a little extra work.”

Outside of Danny Granger, who’s been bothered by injuries for parts of the last two years, big man Roy Hibbert is the longest-tenured Pacers player. With that, and being the fun and outgoing guy that he is, Hibbert helps carry over traditions while keeping rookies in check. Plus, he enjoys it. It’s a rite of passage as much as it about having fun.

Back when Hibbert was a rookie during the 2008-09 season, one of the things he was responsible for was bringing in newspapers every day. Three copies of both USA TODAY and the Indianapolis Star were to be delivered to the lockers of Jeff Foster, Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and Troy Murphy.

“I wanted to be seen, but not seen,” Hibbert recalled of those days.

Beyond the expectations of helping out with bags, passing out towels postgame, or getting the last choice of treatment times, demands these days usually involve food, shoes, and fun. And most occur before boarding their charter flights.

Last season, the Pacers had a trio of rookies — Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson, and Ben Hansbrough — to share the responsibilities.

Johnson didn’t have a car, so he always rode to the airport with Plumlee, who was responsible for purchasing a couple dozen donuts.

“He loves his donuts,” Johnson said of Hibbert.

Not just any donuts, either. They had to be from Long’s Bakery on 16th Street.

“Our first trip, we didn’t really know where Long’s was,” Johnson continued. “We were tripping out, calling our teammates, we were like please ‘We’re trying to make it. Don’t leave us.’ And that was preseason. That was so scary.”

Added Plumlee, before being traded to Phoenix Suns and starting every game thus far: “It’s just a process to figure out the right way to do it.”

Hansbrough, who now plays overseas with Gran Canaria, was in charge of swinging by a gas station before flights and picking up all the snacks. He also was sure to always have a deck of cards on him.

“Sunflower seeds for Paul George, George Hill and D.J. Augustin, along with fruit snacks, two Orange Crushes for Hill and one for Gerald Green,” he easily rattled off.

And sometimes, Hibbert would specifically ask Hansbrough for his own dozen of Long’s yeast donuts.

“It was kind of fun though,” said Hansbrough. “I thought George Hill was a real good veteran and helped me out a lot, so I didn’t mind it. You get used to it. It turns into a routine.”

But it’s a routine that doesn’t come quickly, keeping in mind that playing in the NBA is still very fresh to first-year guys. Often times the team flies out after home games, requiring a rookie to shower and dress fast, pick up the items and make it to the plane on time. You definitely didn’t want to be late to the plane, or they’d leave without you.

“We have about an hour, and I still have to shower, try to grab something to eat before the plane, I have to run and get the donuts and make it there, sometimes with under five minutes to go,” said Johnson.

“You’re just the errand boy,” Plumlee said. “Whatever they want. I’m really happy (to be done with that).”

This season for the Pacers, those duties have fallen onto Solomon Hill, a four-year player from the University of Arizona. Since that time, everything has gone very quickly for the 22-year-old. First it was the draft, then Summer League. Now, the regular season is halfway over.

Hill has handled the demands very well. Early on, Hibbert has made him stand in line for the release of Grand Theft Auto, and spend about $45 at Macy’s for three bottles of Carol's Daughter lotion that would also end up in both his and George Hill’s locker.

“He’s a good rook,” Hibbert said. “Obviously, we take care of him and it’s nothing crazy. We just have to teach him the ropes.

“He can’t be the last one coming to practice. If we’re doing a conditioning a drill and we have to make two free throws, he has to make his two free throws.”

Hill, a very mature and grounded individual, appreciates the team’s culture and having veteran guys that he can learn from. In his first few months with the team, going all the way back to Summer League, Hill credited Rasual Butler for aiding his transition into the league.

“He’s teaching me a lot of things,” Hill explained. “From money, to how you dress, to how to talk to people and how you address the game.”

Being the bottom guy on a 14-man roster can be challenging. But he’s handling it well, whether it is passing out drinks at practice or only being referred to as “rook.” Solomon Hill is taking it in stride, part of a winning organization and understand that it is his year … then, he’s done forever.

“I love it, though, because it’s a part of the dream,” he said. “Everybody goes through it.”

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