Fairfax coach impressed with Hill's journey

The Indiana Pacers drafted Solomon Hill in the first round of last month's NBA Draft. Read on to see what his former high school coach, Harvey Kitani, thinks about where Hill was drafted, his development, and more.

The Indiana Pacers drafted Arizona small forward Solomon Hill with the 23rd pick in the NBA draft last month. The move surprised many people, including Los Angeles Fairfax head coach Harvey Kitani, Hill's former coach.

"I was caught off guard," Kitani said about Hill being drafted in the first round. "Everyone was mentioning that he was going to be a second-round pick. I was just hoping for that to happen for him."

The high school coach had seen Hill the day of the draft. The forward was in attendance of a basketball tournament at his alma mater, sharing the moment with his former team.

"Solomon was actually in our gym the day of the draft and the day after the draft," he said. "We were having our Fairfax summer tournament when the news came in.

"It spread through the Los Angeles people in the stands pretty quick. Everyone was really happy for him."

Kitani remembers Hill fondly, but hadn't imagined that he would see him in the NBA when he headed for Tucson to play for the Wildcats.

"No, (I didn't imagine him being a NBA draft pick when he left Fairfax)," he said. "It's so difficult and everything has to go perfect. As he progressed through his first three years at Arizona and being the type of player that he was turning into, his senior year was his big shot."

Hill progressed from his first day on campus. He arrived on campus needing work, but put in the effort to turn into a team leader and a first round pick. His work ethic is something that Kitani attributes to multiple factors.

"The thing that I attribute his progress to is just Solomon, himself," Kitani said. "He has also had great direction from his parents. He has also had trust with his coaches at every level. I think he's going to continue to improve and be a worthy player for the Indiana organization."

Over the past four years, Hill improved many areas of his game. Kitani knows that the Pacer matured during his time at Arizona, but also made great leaps on the basketball court.

"I think his natural maturity of doing everything the right way (is his biggest improvement)," Kitani said. "That kind of hits it on the nail for Solomon. The readout on him is that he does everything well. He has really matured in all areas

"If I had to pinpoint a skill, defense has been his M.O. He also dribbles the ball well and is a tremendous passer. He just has a great feel for the game."

Hill has already had a strong showing for the Pacers in the NBA Summer League. He had 22 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in his second game with the organization. The early success is something that doesn't surprise Kitani.

"It's not surprising to see him do well," Kitani said. "He's smart. When you're smart, you play the game. Obviously he has to learn how to play the pro game like he learned how to play the college game. It's basketball.

"You have to make the right reads, make the right decisions, and be in the right spot. You have to do it all the correct way. He has that ability."

Kitani has coached at Fairfax since 1981. In the past thirty-two years, he has only coached one other Wildcat: Chris Mills.

"Chris was really great to coach," he said. "He is very similar to Solomon. He is a hard worker and has great intelligence for the game. He turned out to have a great career as a pro."

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