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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Nate Hinton: one rabbit chaser
POSTED: March 12, 2019 -- 5:55 p.m. CDT
Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson has many, many phrases / analogies he says. For example, "We need to hit singles and stop trying to hit home runs."
Of course, "That and a quarter won't buy a cup of coffee."
Or,"Most people don't know what they don't know."
And, my favorite "He didn't know if he was on foot or on horseback when he got here."
Time to add a new phrase to list of favorites: "If you put three rabbits in a room with a freshman, then tell him 'go catch a rabbit.' "
Sampson uses the rabbit analogy to describe how scattered the mind of a freshman is when arriving on campus. When a freshman is learning, he'll try to catch one rabbit then lose focus and try to catch the second rabbit then lose focus again and try to catch the other rabbit. After a few minutes, the freshman has caught zero rabbits. As the season progresses, the freshman will learn, gain focus, and catch a rabbit.
"But, you know freshmen are like if you put three rabbits in a room with a freshman, then tell him 'go catch a rabbit.' He wouldn't catch none of them because he'd be chasing the one closest to him," Coach Sampson said. "He'd be about to catch one and here comes another one in his peripheral vision. He'd leave that one and go chase that one. And, then, he's about to catch that one then here comes another one and go chase that one. So, after two minutes, you open up the door and say, 'Nate, how many rabbits do you have?' Well, he doesn't have any."
Houston's Nate Hinton has learned to catch a rabbit.
Early in the season, Hinton showed flashes of potential and scored in double-digits in 3 of Houston's first seven ball games. The next 6 games Hinton went scoreless twice and scored 2 points two other games.
Hinton's roller coaster continued with 6 double-digits scoring performances out of Houston's next 8 games before 5 more games in single-digits with a high of 6 points in 1 of the 5 games.
"But, what freshmen have to do, over time, is learn how to chase one rabbit and catch it. And, that's what Nate's done. He's grown. He's not a freshman anymore. These guys, they come in here they're stars on their high school team. They're stars on their AAU team; and, now, all of a sudden, they become a role player. They have to adjust to being a role player. And, when you're coaching them, you have to help them define their game: 'Here's what we want you to be. Here's what we want you to be good at.' But, at the same time, not taking any of their offensive freedom away.
In Houston's last 5 games, Hinton is averaging 9.6 points per game. He has scored 9, 10, 4, 9, and 16. Hinton's 16 points combined with 11 rebounds to help Houston defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats, 85-69, on the road and clinch an outright American Athletic Conference regular season title.
"In the last two games, Nate had 10 offensive rebounds; so, that's something we've been focusing on," Coach Sampson said. "Nate played point guard on his high school team; and, when the ball was shot, he was usually getting back (on defense). So, it's been an adjustment for him to go seek missed shots. Go get offensive rebounds.
"Nate is just an example of a kid that's developed and understand what it is we want him to do. And, he's worked hard. Our staff, especially Kellen, works with Nate a lot. They've done a great job of developing. He's become a better shooter. He's become a one rabbit chaser. And, in a huge game like that with a sold out crowd; national television; Senior Day; big game; for him to have 16 points and 11 rebounds just shows you how far he's come."
There it is: Nate Hinton, one rabbit chaser.
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