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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Men's Basketball

For Nate Hinton, an accomplished dream


Houston guard Nate Hinton (11) lets out a burst of energy with a scream as he celebrates during a timeout in UH's 73-46 win against Wichita State in 2019-20 at Fertitta Center. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

Houston guard Nate Hinton (11) lets out a burst of energy with a scream as he celebrates during a timeout in UH’s 73-46 win against Wichita State in 2019-20 at Fertitta Center. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

Surrounded by friends, family and his representatives, Nate Hinton, dressed from head to toe in a custom outfit made by Stitched By Mitch, was flooded with emotion.

His eyes were red from crying as he had just hung up his phone.

On the other end of that call had been Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and team head coach Rick Carlisle. They had called the former UH guard to inform him they were signing him to a two-way contract as an undrafted free agent, and that they were excited about the opportunity to work together.

“Mark Cuban, that’s big,” Hinton said. “That is bigger than big.”

For the 6-foot-5-inch Gastonia, North Carolina native, his gamble had paid off. It didn’t matter how he got there, but he was officially a member of an NBA team. As he put it, he was the 61st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

 “(The Mavericks) are getting everything thrown at them,” said Hinton, who spoke with The Cougar in a one-on-one phone interview on Thursday. “It is something to prove to Dallas …  I belong in the league and that 30 teams made a mistake for not drafting me.

“But at the end of the day, I got a team,” Hinton added. “I have a job, and I am going to make the best of this opportunity and do whatever it takes to establish myself.”

Dream achieved

As soon as Hinton had time to process what had just happened, he did one thing—cried some more. 

A childhood dream finally accomplished, the guard couldn’t help but be overjoyed with signing with the Mavericks.

Just a couple of weeks before, he had spoken with Dallas along with 20 other NBA teams about a potential match. On Wednesday night, it had been made.

“It’s all about the fit,” Hinton said. “I think it’s the best opportunity and the perfect fit for me for the future.”

Hinton was not the only one, who sees Dallas as a good fit. Houston men’s basketball assistant coach Kellen Sampson said on Thursday that the Mavericks really wanted him.

Sampson said that Dallas was one of the teams that contacted UH the most about the guard. 

“(Nate Hinton) is just an absolute warrior and winner,” Sampson said.

Third Ward ties

Back in Houston, Hinton’s college teammates, coaches and fans rejoiced with him.

Just a few moments after getting the word that he was signing with Dallas, Hinton jumped on Instagram Live and made the announcement himself. 

In the comments, his ex-teammates joined in and congratulated him.

Former UH guards Corey Davis Jr., Galen Robinson Jr. and Armoni Brooks, who each declared for the NBA Draft in 2019 and signed their own deals with NBA teams, also reached out to Hinton through texts.

They each said they supported him, and that success from this point onward is all on Hinton himself.

The guard also heard from his college head coach Kelvin Sampson.

“It’s a business,” the elder Sampson told Hinton.

After spending his freshman and sophomore years in college under the guidance of Kelvin and his coaching staff, Hinton was reminded of how much support he has in Houston.

His second home, as Hinton called it, showed the guard a lot of love. The University almost even made him cry again on Friday when the official UH men’s basketball Twitter account posted a video congratulating Dallas on picking up Hinton.

“That video was excellent,” the guard said. “It was touching. It almost brought tears to my eyes just seeing the love that Houston showed me and the love that the fans showed me.”

Looking ahead

While Hinton has yet to communicate with any of the Mavericks’ players, he knows when he finally arrives at their facility for training camp in December, he will have to grind and earn every opportunity that he is given. 

As for when he encounters Dallas stars Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis, Hinton said he won’t be taken aback by who they are.

“We’re basically peers,” Hinton said with a chuckle. “I’m not going to be starstruck. Those are my teammates, so I just got to come in ready to work and be ready to be a good teammate.” 

With one accomplishment now in the rearview mirror, Hinton has a new goal he is focused on, which is to leave his own impact on the city of Dallas and the Mavericks’ organization.

“It’s a blessing,” Hinton said. “It really is. I feel like I’ve really made it, and now I got to keep working because I can’t get comfortable, and I am just appreciative of this opportunity.”

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