Life In The Lesser Leagues: Chris Hines

Kentucky forward Terrence Jones (3) and Alabama forward Chris Hines (44) wait for a ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Southeastern Conference tournament, Saturday, March 12, 2011, in Atlanta. Kentucky won 72-58, (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The road Chris Hines has traveled playing the game of basketball has taken him all over the world. His journey as a professional basketball player has taken him to Hungary, China and the United Kingdom.

But like any story, the buildup to his professional success prepared him for the challenges he faces today. Hines was born in Evergreen, Alabama, and began playing basketball at an early age.

“I’ve been playing since before I can remember — starting in my youthful days, playing and traveling with the local travel team, carpooling in our own personal cars, to being discovered and found by a bigger team in my early teen years,” Hines said.

Hines played with the Alabama Dream Team and traveled to surrounding states for tournaments. Ultimately, his talent was noticed by AAU teams, which landed him an opportunity to play for the Alabama Challenge. That development took him all across the nation.

During his younger days, though, Hines was faced with a tough set of obstacles to overcome.

“My biggest obstacle outside of myself was the absence of my parents,” Hines said. “With my dad departing while I was at the tender age of 5, and soon after that at the age of 10 my mom passing, that was a lot for me and my family to go through.”

As a child still coming to terms with the realities of the world, the absence of his parents forced Hines to adjust to a whirlwind of changes. He moved to a different city and school, away from his family and friends that surrounded for much of his childhood.

“It definitely made me better, because after experiencing what I experienced so young in life, I felt that there was nothing else out there that could hurt me or do me any harm,” Hines said.

He continued developing as a player and emerged as a top player in the state in high school. In 2006, he was runner-up in voting for Alabama’s Mr. Basketball award in 2006 behind Stanley Robinson.

“I had reached a level of playing where I was like, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’ I was very motivated and was getting tons of support from lots of people,” said Hines.

Hines averaged 28.5 points per game, 13 rebounds per game and led his high school, Hillcrest-Evergreen, to its first ever state championship. As is usually the case with highly-touted prospects, he had his sights on the NBA.

However, the next step in his career would be collegiate basketball. Hines played junior college basketball at Southwestern Illinois College before deciding to return to his home state to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

“I chose Alabama because I wanted to bring basketball back in my home state,” said Hines. “I grew up watching [Earnest] Shelton, [Erwin] Dudley, [Kennedy] Winston and those guys playing in those big games and was very inspired to reach that level of play.”

Hines stepped in and helped fill a void in the Alabama frontcourt during his time in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide put together a strong regular season and won the Southeastern Conference West Division title.

“My career highpoint outside of my success in high school would have to go back to my senior season at Alabama with Coach Grant and those guys,” said Hines. “The things we were able to accomplish and do, like winning the SEC West, being number one and number two in the SEC, and making history by going 19-0 at home – it’s almost like a drug, because now I just want that back so bad and want that feeling back to where it almost feels like an addiction. But I have yet to find that home or place of peace again.”

Despite his success with the Crimson Tide, the NBA was more of something to work towards than an immediate option. Instead, Hines began his professional career elsewhere. He played for Zalakeramia-ZTE KK in the Hungary-A division.

Hines averaged nearly 12 points and six assists during the team’s 2011-2012 campaign. After taking a year off from playing overseas, he earned stints in China and the United Kingdom, which opened his eyes to the challenges professional players face abroad.

“I feel that the one thing people don’t know about professional basketball outside the NBA is the grind that guys are on and the things that we sometimes have to go through while traveling the world want to do what we love to do,” Hines said. “It’s not always peaches and cream when traveling to different countries and place to play basketball.”

While playing in China, Hines experienced living and playing conditions that helped him understand just how different professional basketball is for players playing overseas.

“I remember stepping out onto the court for my first game in China, and there was actually dirt on the court,” Hines said. “It was kind of an outside setting, but we were inside just one half of the gym.”

Hines compared the gym to the football stadium at Ohio State University, often referred to as The Horseshoe.

“It was the wake of winter. I mean, it was freezing,” he added. “The court looked like it was a clay court of some sort. I’m not complaining, but at the same time, you’re just not used to those kind of playing conditions in the states.”

His stint in China ended and eventually gave way to another brief stint with the Plymouth University Raiders in the United Kingdom. Nowadays, Hines is stateside resting, but he’s still working towards his goal of an extended professional basketball career.

“Outside of basketball, I love working with kids and coaching the game of basketball,” Hines said of his plans. “I have my own AAU team. I’m excited about that and coaching them during the summer months while I try to keep myself up for next season.”

CBS42 will be following Hines on his journey to continue a career as a professional basketball player.

2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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