When he finally flipped it back from the dormant mode, there were text messages, Twitter notifications and missed calls. Then came the call from assistant coach Chris Crutchfield, who recruited Hield out of the Bahamas almost 10 years ago.
There was a pause on the other end of the line after Crutchfield told the high-scoring guard the news. Hield turned to his mother, who has been visiting for the final two weeks of the regular season.
“Mommy, I got it,” Crutchfield remembered hearing on the other end of the phone, followed by screaming and yelling – likely the voices of Hield’s brothers, who also had come into town.
On Sunday, Hield was named the Big 12 Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring and finishing in the top 10 in six major categories.
“Everybody wants to be the player of the year,” Hield said. “It’s been a goal for me. I set goals for myself and you want to achieve them. I’ve achieved one already, and I’m happy about that.”
It’s been close to eight years since Crutchfield took a trip out to the Bahamas for a showcase tournament and watched a young 13-year-old take over the event. When Hield first came into the gym, Crutchfield didn’t know the skinny boy was even a part of the tournament.
Crutchfield just saw the crowd that was captivated, following Hield around.
A few shots and Crutchfield saw the player who, even after arriving at Oklahoma, didn’t have a pre-destined future to become the best player in the best league in the country.
“This is a good league with really, really good players,” Crutchfield said. “He never saw himself doing that. I didn’t either.”
Hield becomes the second player in Oklahoma history to be named Big 12 Player of the Year by the conference’s coaches. Current Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin was the first following the 2008-09 season. Hollis Price was named the league’s best in 2003 by the Associated Press.
Griffin came to the Sooners already a well-known commodity – having been one of the top recruited players in the country. Hield, who played at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, had much less pedigree.
There were flashes as a stubborn freshman, and Hield took his game to the next level as a sophomore by developing into one of the better shooters in the league.
Then, it all slowed down as a junior.
“My teammates and coaches push me every day,” said Hield, who was planning on getting a few shots up Sunday night – a day off for the Sooners. “I’m in here every day with Isaiah working out. They’re in here every day helping me work on my game. . . . They don’t know how much they’ve improved my game every day on the court. They’ve watched after me and taught me how to set an example. I’m really humbled by this award, but the best it yet to come.”
Teammate TaShawn Thomas was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Houston.
What’s yet to come for Hield is actually pretty unknown. He’ll likely be evaluated for the NBA Draft after the season, potentially prepared to make the jump to the next level early. For now though, it’s all about Oklahoma’s push through March as Hield looks for his first postseason win, likely the last of his goals that aren't a championship.
All he has to do is what he’s always done, utilizing two traits that stood out to Crutchfield even when Hield’s basketball skills were still very raw.
“We’ve always relied on him to be able to score,” Crutchfield said. “. . . Because of his character and because of his competitive spirit, he’s a guy in March that isn’t afraid to take big shots or do things that are out of the ordinary.”
Other award winners include:
Coach of the Year: Bob Huggins, West Virginia.
6th Man of the Year: Taurean Prince, Baylor.