What a Hall of Fame player taught me.

Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 12:51pm

There may be nothing sweeter than watching an athlete that has worked and given their dedication to a goal receive recognition for their achievements. I had the opportunity to watch a former Golden Eagle inducted into the USU Eastern Athletic Hall of Fame, via technology.


The honoree was Kris Hill, who during his two seasons at the College of Eastern Utah, rewrote the record books. His career spanned from 1990-1992 as a Golden Eagle during which time he scored 1,026 points (fifth all-time-leading scorer), 601 of those points coming during his sophomore year (10th all time for single-season scoring totals). He also set the record for most rebounds by an individual in a career with 842 and in 1992 he became the fourth All-American basketball player at CEU.


At the induction ceremony on Oct. 10, Hill was introduced by athletic director Dave Paur and the introduction and the acceptance speech by Hill may be two of the finest speeches I have ever heard. Both were filled with funny anecdotes and stories, but there were also thoughts I was able to take away from them that I hope to relay in this column since the point of this entire column is to take lessons from sports and apply them to life. There were three philosophies that I was able to take away from these speeches.

Paur relayed a story about why Hill was so successful. He said that the thing he remembered about Hill was that he was always having fun. Paur went a step farther, “You gotta have fun, if you aren’t having fun, why are you playing?” I think oftentimes we forget that we are supposed to enjoy the things that we are doing instead of just trudging through life day by day with a bleak and meager existence.


This was a great thing to take away from the speech because Hill has been successful at many different levels of basketball, from junior college at CEU to the D1 level at DePaul and even the professional level in Europe. It was because he enjoyed what he was doing.


Hill didn’t leave his love of basketball when he was done playing, instead he continued doing what he loved and became a coach at the high school and collegiate level, coaching at Brighton and Jordan high schools and at Utah Valley University and Weber State University.


The second thing that I learned came from Hill. He relayed the story of how a kid from Chicago, Ill., ended up in Price, Utah. He said that when he came out of high school he had two scholarship offers, one to a school in Chicago and one to CEU. After his weekend visit to CEU, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to live in a small town where he knew nobody while all of his friends from high school had offers to play at schools in the area he grew up. Hill said his high school coach gave him some advice and it was, “Dare to be different.”


It is so easy for all of us to try and to fit into the molds placed in front of us and this advice, that was meant for an 18-year old Hill, could be universally applied. We are all individuals, why don’t we act like it. There are many times in sports where individuals dared to be different and it worked out in their favor.


One person who dared to be different was Michael Jordan and I think we can be thankful that he was willing to be different because if he didn’t help make a difference in the length of basketball shorts, we would all still be seeing NBA players in the short shorts that were made famous by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and the shortest shorts in NBA history, John Stockton. It is time that we learn like Hill did that it is okay to break the mold and be different because in all likelihood, it should work out for the best.

The final thought that I took away from Hill’s acceptance speech was the value of hard work. I think we know that to be successful it takes effort and time, but being able to buckle down and do some hard manual labor makes all of that seem easier. Hill told several different stories about learning how to do hard work like baling hay with the Gary Arrington family from Huntington and working in Richard Lee’s yard.


It seems that the value of hard work has gone by the wayside and while Hill made jokes about never being a farmer because he learned early during his time in Price that being dirty and doing hard work wasn’t for him, you could tell that those experiences shaped him and taught him the value of hard work. We all need these experiences so we know what we are capable of, if we were to always stop when the road got rough or things get a little too difficult, we would never succeed in sports or in life.

In the end I watched as Hill received the recognition that was well deserved. What was even more enjoyable was to walk away with ideas, stories and experiences that could make us all better. Remember to enjoy the things that you do, learn the value of hard work and dare to be different because all three will help you succeed whether in an athletic sense or just life in general.

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