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From Division II To G League: Amir Hinton Is Creating His Path To NBA With Westchester Knicks

Amir Hinton discusses how beneficial it was playing under Joel Hopkins at Shaw University and what he emphasized that stuck with him.

Oklahoma City Blue vs. Westchester Knicks Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been an eventful 2019 for Amir Hinton. Three days into the new year, he was competing in his 11th game of the season at Shaw University, a Division II school located in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the early stages of Hinton’s junior campaign where he was lighting up on the court.

He only spent one season at Shaw, but it was Joel Hopkins that recruited him in 2017. He believed Hinton was a pro and it was difficult to stop him on the floor. Hopkins was known for working with Tracy McGrady, Amar’e Stoudemire, Marquis Daniels, Jarrett Jack and Ronald “Flip” Murray before they jumped to the NBA.

During his lone season playing at Shaw, Hinton said Hopkins emphasized to keep that dog mentality. He continued by saying, “that’s one thing I can’t lose no matter how many obstacles I go through. I can’t forget that because that’s going to take me a long way.”

Hinton said it was beneficial working with a coach like Hopkins who has a pedigree working with players who made the jump to the next level.

“That’s my guy,” Hinton told Ridiculous Upside. “I love that guy because I always say if he didn’t put me in that position he put me in last year, I don’t think I would have been here. I would have been somewhere else or something. He put me in so many good positions during the season. He, as a father figure to me, was teaching me things as a man. What to do and what not to do. Be responsible and stuff like that, so I’m very grateful for having him as a coach and I’m glad I made that decision to go to (Shaw University).”

He went onto average 29.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.3 steals per game on 48.8 percent from the field in 29 games en route to being named the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Player of the Year. The 6’5” guard displayed his scoring ability where he was able to drive to the basket, score in transition, and drain midrange shots. Hinton was the top scorer in Division II last season and put himself on the map last season due to his high level scoring.

“I believe so. Prior to that, I always did that,” Hinton said. “I always was a scorer. I just needed that platform. I just needed that exposure. I think last year, it kind of opened some eyes up around the country. I know there wasn’t a lot of D-II guys that was doing that, so I think last year I was best to be put in that situation to be able to score and do stuff like that.”

He decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2019 NBA Draft. The Shaw product worked out for numerous teams, including the New York Knicks. Many believed he had the chance to be the first Division II player drafted since Robert Whaley and could have been the second Shaw player drafted behind Ronald Murray.

The NBA Draft came and Hinton didn’t hear his name called. Several hours after the Draft concluded, he agreed to a deal with the New York Knicks. For Hinton, it wasn’t difficult not getting drafted.

“It wasn’t tough at all,” Hinton said. “I’m a real believer in God, so I just put in my head that maybe this is my route and he’s putting me on. I just got to accept it and get better each and every day, grow as a man and as a person every day, and learn myself most importantly while I’m here. Learn myself. Learn my habits. Get rid of bad habits and stuff like that, so I think it will work out.”

The rookie guard was ready to write the his first chapter of his professional career. It started out on the west coast in Las Vegas Summer League. He was with the team from that point through training camp and preseason.

While Hinton was waived by New York, he joined the team’s G League affiliate, Westchester Knicks, as an affiliate player. Not only was it was beneficial for the Knicks guard to get acclimated to the team’s system and be with the team for those five months, but he plans to use the G League to catapult him to the NBA.

“Obviously, I learned a lot,” Hinton said. “I was around the guys and around the vets. The team the organization they taught me a lot. Things that I probably didn’t know about the game. The ins and outs of the NBA, so I think it was very beneficial to me.”

“Just getting better every day,” Hinton continued. “Trying to find my role on the team and accepting & embracing that role. I think once I put that together, find a role and embrace it and just have fun, I’ll be in good hands. Put it in God’s hands. I think I’ll be okay though.”

Hinton’s rookie debut was one to remember. Westchester’s season opener was moved to Madison Square Garden and the Knicks guard recorded 24 points, five rebounds, and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field. After starting the first three games, Hinton has played a significant role as a scorer in the second unit.

While it’s early in the season, the Shaw product feels like he learned to embrace that he’s a scorer.

“I learned that I’m a scorer,” Hinton said. “I really learned that and it took me some time to embrace that. That’s just what you do. You just got to find better ways at doing it. At this level, it’s different. You got bigger guys. You got faster guys. It’s just different. That’s one thing I’ve learned. That’s one thing I got to start embracing more, continuing to work on myself, and continue to do the rights things I have to do to get to where I need to be.”

Hinton isn’t the first Division II player that is looking to use the G League to showcase his skills as he works towards an opportunity in the NBA. Josh Magette (Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic), Jaylen Morris (Atlanta and Milwaukee Bucks), Haywood Highsmith (Philadelphia 76ers), and Emanuel Terry (Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns) are a few former Division II players that worked their way through the NBAGL to earn a chance in the Association.

While every player’s road to the NBA is different, Hinton’s family and self motivation fuels him as he is working towards his goal.

“My family and self motivation,” Hinton said. “I got to understand that everybody’s road is different and my road has been long. It’s been a long road. I don’t think there’s a few people that went through my route. The route that I took. If I can get through that route and get this far, I think I can get through anything. It’s just a matter of overcoming obstacles and embracing different things I got to embrace, but I think I’m going to be fine.”

It’s been a long, but enjoyable, year for Hinton. The 6’5” guard started the year wearing the Shaw garnet and white uniform and will finish the year in the Westchester Knicks blue and orange. While Hinton is seeing certain things for the first time, he has been enjoying every minute of it.

“It’s been a lot of stuff that I haven’t been through. Growing up where I come from. It’s just something I’ve been taking one day at a time. I’ve been enjoying every minute of it and every day of it. I just feel like I belong where I belong. I think when that day comes, I’ll show everyone that I belong. Until then, I’m going to keep working hard and keep doing what I’m doing. It’s been very busy, but it’s been fun.”