Sunday Q&A: Former Duke star Grant Hill

March 16, 2015

Grant Hill will be on the Final Four announcing team with veterans Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery. Photo above: Ross D. Franklin • Associated Press

Original article on StarTribune

Former Duke and NBA great Grant Hill is working as a television analyst for CBS and Turner Sports during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Leading up to March Madness, Hill took time to chat with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand about this year’s tournament and memories of past years.

Q Will Kentucky finish off this undefeated perfect season?

A Wow, well I’m paid to know these things, but I don’t know. You have to think they’re the team to beat. Their depth, their defense and their willingness to sacrifice, I think they’re a remarkable story. I will say that I have seen some slippage in their play. I don’t know if they’re as sharp as they were earlier in the year.

Q Who else has a realistic chance of winning the tournament?

A It’s very rare to see all the potential top seeds in the Final Four … but I do think there is a significant amount of separation between the top four or five teams and the rest of the country. I think Wisconsin, they have everybody back and the guy inside (Frank Kaminsky) is even better than he was last year. Duke is a team that’s certainly capable. But I fill out brackets every year like everyone else. And very rarely do I win. That’s the beauty of it. In the NBA, typically in a seven-game series, the best team wins. But here, the better team doesn’t always advance. That’s what makes it exciting.

Q What’s your assessment of former Apple Valley star Tyus Jones and his freshman year at Duke?

A I’ve been very impressed with Tyus. I had a chance to work out with him in August, but to watch him throughout the season and to see how poised and composed he is as a point guard throughout the game, and how clutch he is in those moments — he’s been great. He really is their closer. … At times he needs to be more aggressive, but that’s nitpicking. I’ve been very impressed. As a Duke fan, he’s been a pleasure to follow and watch.

Q We’re 23 years removed from that 1992 Final Four at the Metrodome, where your Duke team won a national title. What do you remember specifically from that time?

A It was the end of a two-year journey. We knew going in that the team and core of guys we had beginning with the year before was going to come to an end. The mind-set was to finish everything off and make sure we take care of business. As a team, collectively, our mind-set might have been different than the year before. … We were more comfortable, more confident. We were the hunted instead of the hunter. … We still went out and had a memorable Final Four, but it was more a sense of relief when we won and it was over.

Q The most memorable moment of that 1992 season, of course, was Christian Laettner’s shot after your long pass, to beat Kentucky in the region final. There’s a documentary debuting Sunday on ESPN called “I Hate Christian Laettner.” Why has he been such a polarizing figure?

A For the record, I love Christian Laettner. He was one of my favorite teammates. And outside of Michael Jordan, who I played with a few times in All-Star Games, when he was at Duke he was the best player I ever played with. He was unbelievable in college.