PHOENIX — Arizona swingman Solomon Hill and ASU forward Carrick Felix aren’t supposed to be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft, but they’re arguably doing more than anyone else to change that. The rivals might be the most prolific workout machines in this year’s draft class.
They attended a Saturday workout with the Phoenix Suns in a group of wings that also included North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock, Gonzaga’s Elias Harris and Syracuse’s James Southerland and Brandon Triche. For Hill and Felix, the Suns were visit number 17 and each expected to have one more go before Thursday’s draft.
Considering the Chicago Draft Combine went through May 19, that’s 17 workouts across the country in 34 days.
“It’s been a long road, just on the planes, in and out of seats, in and out of hotel beds,” Felix said. “Honestly everything’s a big mush, a mess. It’s all a scramble, you talk to so many new people, you met so many new people. Again though, it’s fun.”
Felix and Hill didn’t have a choice to be tagged as rivals once they chose a college, but even after they played their last Duel in the Desert battle their paths have crossed a number of times while working out for NBA teams.
“I’ve seen him a lot,” Felix said of Hill. “We’ve got to know each other at another level. Everybody always sees us as ASU versus UofA. A lot of people don’t think we like each other but we’ve grown a mutual respect at the time of the workouts. We share the same interests, the same passion, the same drive.”
On Saturday, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, a North Carolina graduate himself, liked Bullock’s ability to shoot and defend. That was the theme of the workout, which in general was the maybe the deepest and most mature group Phoenix has seen over the last few weeks — no weak links, McDonough said.
Bullock could be a pick at 30 for the Suns, but Felix and Hill showed that they might be possibilities at 57.
McDonough said Felix set a record in the conditioning portion of the workout or what McDonough called the “Suns Run.” Again, it’s impressive since he’s been working out every other day.
Meanwhile Hill, who played more power forward than small forward in college, showed that he could hit NBA threes consistently and handle the ball.
“You hear some guys saying, ‘Your first step is quicker than I thought – or your ballhandling skills,’” Hill said. “That’s something I’ve always had. I think my agent showed me a stat, as far as isolation plays in wings, I create my own shots the most.”
Felix and Hill are both fighting to break into the first round, and it’s hard to say any other players in the 2013 have worked harder. Hill is trying to shed his combo forward label for a shooting guard or small forward one, and Felix is attempting to prove he’s the grittiest guy out there.
After four years of college, the goal is simple for each. If there’s any glass ceiling above them, break it.
“People say, four years of college, you don’t have too much potential,” Hill said. “You look at a guy like Brandon Roy, coming out of college, nobody thought he’d be the player he was, he matured to be. I’m only 22. LeBron’s like 29, 28, he’s just hitting his peak years.
“You hear these people, they slate you off … other guys (have) potential, or a guy who can contribute right now. I can contribute right now and I can get better. I’m not an old man.”
Added Felix: “This is who I am. After this past year, I think that’s when I kind of came on. I definitely showed people who Carrick Felix is … just the fact that I’m going to go out there and compete, play hard, play defense and just do the small things.”
What about that rivalry, though?
The former Wildcat wasn’t as close to calling the Sun Devil his friend.
“I think there’s still that rivalry, it’s still there,” Hill said. “You don’t want to get too comfortable because at the end of the day me and him are both competing for the same spot. Both wing guys, both guys that want to defend and open the floor for the team. You can get close but pretty sure on draft day, if I go first or he goes first, the other will be mad about it.”