Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cleo Hill

From ESPN's "Black Magic" series on basketball players from historically black colleges, there's a good video about Cleo Hill. As one article points out:
Had he played for another team or in another time, maybe you'd know Cleo Hill's name. Maybe most everyone would.

CBS analyst Billy Packer saw him play in college and considers him a forerunner to David Thompson and Michael Jordan.

Hill was "probably the greatest player of his time, black or white," sportswriter Howie Evans contends in "Black Magic," a two-part documentary premiering Sunday on ESPN that explores lives of players from historically black schools during the civil rights movement.

Such promise prompted then-St. Louis Hawks executive Marty Blake to pick Hill eighth overall in the 1961 NBA draft. Blake marvels still at Hill's array of shots, including right- and left-handed hooks from what today would be 3-point range, that enabled him to average about 27 points as a senior at Winston Salem Teacher's College.

"He came into the league with abilities that were 40 years ahead of his time," said Blake, 80, the NBA scouting director.
The video shows Hill making some of those long-range hook shots.

Hill never had much success in the NBA; the video attributes this to jealousy from his white teammates, and to the team's owners who demanded that the white coach keep Hill on the bench. The coach refused, and he got fired instead.


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