25 Nov 2021 | 04:55 | Basketball

He’s a swingman, big enough to create matchup problems for the backcourt, athletic enough to get to the rim, versatile enough to show up in all categories of a typical box score.

It’s difficult to put the talents of USF sophomore Sam Hines Jr., into a predictable box. With each game, it seems, he takes on a different shape or rhythm. Most often, he provides what is needed. And that’s a quality the Bulls (2-2) won’t take for granted as they prepare for Wednesday night’s game against the Hampton Pirates (2-3) at the Yuengling Center.

“Everybody loves this kid,” USF coach Brian Gregory said. “He’s versatile, hard-working and just gets things done on the court.”Hines dunk 111321 MBB v GASO

That was the formula used by Hines, from Marietta, Ga., during his freshman season at the University of Denver, where he averaged 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds. Still, the Colorado odyssey always seemed like a strange fit for a kid who describes himself as “chill.” Denver was … chilly, snowy and very different.

“I don’t much like the cold,” said Hines, 6-foot-6, 213 pounds. “I like the warmth of Tampa, the beaches, the lifestyle. That’s more my style.”

But in Denver, like every place else, the basketball was played indoors. What did the weather really matter? Hines was attracted by the opportunity and, sure enough, he was very productive as a freshman. He already was thinking about ways to improve his game and become more valuable to the Pioneers.

Then his head coach, Kevin Billups (brother of Chauncey), was fired.

“That changed a lot of things and I took it as a sign that I needed to get back closer to home,” Hines said.

The landscape looked pretty crowded with grad transfers and a glut of players in the transfer portal who were seeking new homes in the post-COVID world. His father, Sam Sr., played an instrumental role.

The father was with South Alabama when the Jaguars shared a Sun Belt Conference home with USF in the early 1990s, then he played professionally in Italy. He also knew of Gregory, formerly of Georgia Tech, and liked the coach’s philosophy.

“I like the vibe and I like how the coach wants accountability,” Hines said. “He’s a do-it-all type of guy. I feel like I can bring energy to the game and I like creating plays for my teammates. I think I can bring something to this team.”

A lot of things, actually.

Hines had a storied prep career at Wheeler High School in Marietta, where his team won the Class 7A state championship in 2020, a few days before the sports world was shut down by COVID. Hines had 28 points, shooting 11-for-12 from the field, and his free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining led a 60-59 upset of top-ranked Grayson, which was No. 5 nationally.

Grayson’s top player was Caleb Murphy, who is now Hines’ USF teammate.Hines Jr 2021 BB Marketing

“No grudges,” Hines said. “We talk about it and just laugh about it now. We’ve had some funny conversations. It worked out well for me and I’m sure it was a tough loss for him. But now we’re working together.”

In fact, when Hines was considering his future college destination, his mother called Murphy’s mother for a USF scouting report. It was highly recommended, another reason why Hines headed to Tampa.

“I might score, I might rebound, I’ll keep the ball moving and I’m not hesitant to do any of it,” Hines said. “Versatility is important. I like to think that’s the kind of game I play.”

The king of swing.


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About USF Men’s Basketball

The USF men’s basketball team is led by head coach Brian Gregory, who enters his fifth season in 2021-22. Gregory was introduced as the 10th head coach in program history in March of 2017 after previously leading programs at Georgia Tech (2011-16) and Dayton (2003-11). Gregory spent nearly a decade as an assistant coach under Michigan State’s Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo and helped the Spartans win the 2000 NCAA National Championship. Gregory owns over 300 career head coaching wins and six postseason appearances, including the 2010 NIT Championship with Dayton. In his second season at the helm of the Bulls, Gregory led the team to the best win turnaround in the NCAA, the most single-season wins in school history and the 2019 College Basketball Invitational championship.

USF has retired three numbers in its 48-year history: Chucky Atkins (12), Charlie Bradley (30) and Radenko Dobras (31). The Bulls have earned three NCAA tournament bids, appeared in the NIT eight times and won the 2019 College Basketball Invitational.

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