When power forward Tyrone Hill arrived in the NBA as a
first-round pick out of Xavier in 1990, he had a pretty good
idea of how he would do. "I figured I'd step up and shut
everybody down," he says. "I was so cocky, I didn't think there
was a player who could score on me."
Hill quickly changed his attitude. As a rookie with the Warriors
he was shaken, stirred and dominated. Not only was he called for
a foul every 4.5 minutes, but he was also taken to school by the
Malones, McHales and, ahem, Rambises of the league. "That's when
I figured it out," says Hill, who is in his first year with
Milwaukee. "Guys here are gonna get their points--that's a fact.
The key is how hard you make it for them."
Over the last few seasons the 6'9", 245-pound Hill has emerged
as one of the league's toughest defenders in the post, having
learned a variety of strategies, each designed to deprive an
opposing power forward of his pet move. When Milwaukee battles
Cleveland, Hill knows that Shawn Kemp--he of the jackrabbit
quickness and deadly first step--is going to post up and then
spin. "So he's a guy you don't want to put too much body on,"
says Hill, who held Kemp to 11 points in the Bucks' 99-93 win
last Saturday. "If Shawn feels you leaning, he knows which way
to spin. With him I just use my forearm up high. No body."
On the other hand, Houston's Charles Barkley--more power, less
flash--likes to pound inside. "I lean on him and make him work,"
Hill says. "He's so strong, you can't just go with the forearm.
He'll eat you up."
From shoulders to hips to toes, Hill's body language can dictate
the course of a battle down low. "The knee to the rear can be a
good thing, except now most refs call it," says Hill, who was
averaging 10.1 points and 10.3 rebounds through Sunday. "And the
feet--you need your feet planted for balance, but not so planted
that a guy can spin on you and get to the basket."
Growing up in Cincinnati, Hill adhered to the coaching staples
of defense: Hands up! Defend the baseline! Put yourself between
the basket and the offensive player! Alas, Hill now knows
better. "That stuff just ain't true in the NBA," he says. "If
you keep both hands up in this league--well, forget about it.
One arm always has to be on the guy's back, and the other, maybe
three-quarters up in the air. Guys are too strong to guard
without hands." As for defending the baseline, Hill rarely
bothers. "A guy goes baseline, his options are limited," he
says. "There may be one pass he can make. But if he drives to
the paint, he can make two or three passes, and he has a bunch
of different shots."
Because he has been pressed into playing against centers at
times, Hill has also learned the art of fronting. "If you do it
the right way to the right guys, it can really frustrate them,"
he says. So you can shut down, say, Patrick Ewing? "No," says
Hill. "As I said, a guy like that's still gonna get his points.
But if it's 25 instead of 35, I can go home happy."
COLOR PHOTO: RAY AMATI/NBA PHOTOS [Tyrone Hill in game]