BRO had a chance to interview Rico Hines after the season's first weekly press conference. Rico is a 6-4 swingman from North Carolina, a senior entering his 5th year at UCLA.
BRO: It feels like you've been at UCLA forever. Since 1997.
Hines: Since 1996, really, that's how I see it. At least, that's when I first met Coach Harrick and Coach Lavin. They came to a game at Prospect Hall, in Maryland, where I was going to school, and they were there to scout my teammate, Nate James, who played at Duke. After that game, they started recruiting me as well.
BRO: Did they tell you why they were recruiting you?
Hines: They said they especially liked my toughness, they felt I could make a big impact mentally on a west coast team that had a lot of west coast players. I played an all-around game, offense, defense, and they liked that a lot, that I wasn't focused on scoring so much as helping the team. In high school, I was a pretty good player, shooter, ballhandler, athlete. I haven't put up big numbers in college, but I'm not sure someone who saw me in high school could have predicted that. Maybe, but I'm not sure, I put up pretty good numbers in high school and we were a very talented team.
BRO: Before then, did you already have other schools that were recruiting you, who were pretty far along in the process as far as you actually thinking you might go there?
Hines: The main schools were North Carolina, North Carolina State and Tennessee. Plus, East Carolina, which isn't a big name school, but it's located right where I grew up, so that would have been like going home for college, I'm from North Carolina originally, so I was thinking about them, but North Carolina, NC State, Tennessee, probably I was going to pick one of those schools.
BRO: So, why did you decide to leave home and go to UCLA?
Hines: When I visited here, I just fell in love with the school and L.A. Plus, I was really close with Cameron Dollar, he and I went to the same high school, and I could see that he'd been really successful out here and he was always talking to me about coming out to UCLA. And UCLA had just won the national championship, and of course it's UCLA. Every little kid, even on the east coast, dreams of going to UCLA at some point if they are a basketball player.
BRO: Now, you're in your 5th year at UCLA, and so far you haven't started and it looks like you won't start this season. Guys like Jason Kapono and Dan Gadzuric are the stars of the team, the guys who get to shoot and get all of the attention. As a basketball player who comes in dreaming of being a star, of being a starter, do you ever look back and regret that you didn't go to another school where you could have been one of the main players?
Hines: Absolutely not. No way. I've had this really incredible experience at UCLA and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. The friendships I've made, all of the things I've learned, I really can't describe how much it's all changed my life for the better. Sure, there are times when you get frustrated because you want to play more, but I've seen that there's a lot more to life than basketball, and it's a team sport, so you have to put the team first in every situation. I feel that all the work I've done is really going to pay off this year, because I think we can win the National Championship and that is a bigger accomplishment than how many points you score. My getting hurt last year was a blessing in disguise, because I've learned that I want to be a coach myself after I'm done with school. Having that year, sitting with the coaches on the bench, seeing the games from that perspective, I really improved my understanding of the game from the mental standpoint, and that's an invaluable experience, both for a player and for a future coach.
BRO: Now, Coach Harrick recruited you to UCLA, but when you got here Steve Lavin was the coach. Did that give you any second thoughts when you first got here?
Hines: No, not at all. First, Coach Lavin was already the main assistant when I was being recruited, so I had gotten to know him from that. Then, I didn't qualify for UCLA out of high school, so I went to Hargrave Military Academy for a year. And that was when Coach Harrick left UCLA. So Coach Lavin didn't have to recruit me or take me, but he flew out to Virginia and told me he still wanted me to come to UCLA, and that was a great feeling. So, with how things have worked out for me here, I really owe Coach Lavin a lot, for staying loyal to me. I love Coach Lavin to death, I feel like he's my second father. He really cares about me and the rest of the players as people, it's not just about basketball with him and that's really important for the players, because when they get that message from the coach then they start thinking about other things as well, they focus on themselves as the whole person and not just as basketball players, and you never know how your life is going to turn out.
BRO: How do you see your role on the team this year?
Hines: I'm one of the co-captains. Obviously, my role is a lot different from Dan and Jason. My job is to get them the ball, do whatever I can to make sure they are in a position to score and help us win. They're really quiet, they aren't vocal with the other guys and sometimes they lose their focus, so they need someone to stay on them, to talk to them and the other players and make sure everyone competes all-out, all of the time . If someone is not running the plays, not practicing hard, I will get in their faces. If we are in a game where everyone is playing like a bunch of &^**(&^, I will make sure everyone hears about it, we aren't going to take anyone for granted as far as I am concerned, that's not acceptable. We are not going to lose any games this year because someone is tired or not going all out or there's some other excuse. That's not acceptable. We can win the National Championship this year, and excuses aren't acceptable. As far as playing, I'll be one of the first players off the bench, I will play guard and forward, in our system the players are interchangeable, and we are going to press and that means playing with real intensity and intelligence. So, you can say my role is to compete, which is really what winning basketball is all about. If we come out and compete and work hard and follow the coach's instructions, we will win.
BRO: What are you getting your degree in?
Hines: Two degrees. I've already gotten my history degree, and I will get a degree in African Studies this year.
BRO: My former sister-in-law teaches African Studies at Minnesota, and at St. Thomas, too, that's a school in Minneapolis. My niece speaks fluent Swahili, she lived in Tanzania for 5 years.
Hines: That's pretty cool. I want to go to Africa after I graduate.
BRO: I'm sure you and everyone else on the team has been asked about Cedric Bozeman about 50 times. But what about Dijon Thompson and Andre Patterson? What are your initial impressions of them?
Hines: Dijon. He's really good, he's long, he can run, he can play a lot of positions. Basically, he is a point guard/shooting guard in a 6-8 body, so he can play up front if we need him to. He needs to work on his toughness, physically and mentally. He is so skilled, everything comes so easy for him, he doesn't realize how good he can be if he puts in the work. He can do some things that we, me and the veterans, can't do, or we can do things with hard work and he can do them without even having to make an effort, but he has to keep up his intensity if he wants to really develop that talent and take it to another level.
BRO: And Andre?
Hines: He's just so long. His arms seem to go on forever and he just dunks everything, it's pretty scary sometimes. But he needs to get stronger, too, and I have to make sure he understands how hard he has to work in practice, he just can't get by on his talent, we need for him and Dijon and Cedric to be playing at another level for us this year if we want to win the championship, so they don't get to grow up like normal freshmen. And they have that talent where they're not like normal freshmen, but only if they combine that talent with a work ethic and mental toughness. I hope these guys will stay all four years in college, because they can really be something special if they stay and play together for the next four years. And, like I said, there's a lot more to the experience and value of college than basketball, so I hope they appreciate the opportunity they have to accomplish something special with their lives, on and off the court.
BRO: Thanks, Rico. Good luck for the season.