After 2020, we should be used to events that don’t go exactly like we expect.
But some things still catch you by surprise, like 12-year-old Brady Collins with her ponytail swishing behind her like the shots that she was shooting at Wednesday’s Mavs Academy hoop camp.
It was Collins, who might push 5-feet tall on her tiptoes, who got down to the final two players in the traditional game of Knockout and her deadeye shooting sent 6-5 Mavericks rookie Nate Hinton to the sideline, much to the delight of the 50 other campers at Duncanville Fieldhouse.
Everybody roots against Goliath, right?
For Hinton, the swingman out of the University of Houston who spent last season on a two-way contract, this was his first venture into the world of being the featured attraction at camp.
But it was clear that he felt right at home participating with the kids who ranged in age from elementary school to high school.
That’s because he’s been through this before – on the other side. And it wasn’t that many years ago when one of his hometown heroes, hall of famer James Worthy, came back to Gastonia, N.C., for a camp that a wide-eyed Hinton attended.
“I’m just smiling because I imagine me as a young kid going to a camp – I just saw a picture when I went home of me at a basketball camp and it just brings back memories,” Hinton, 22, said. “Anytime you see an NBA player when you’re that age, it’s a dream come true. James Worthy, he had a camp in Gastonia. I remember we were just out of high school and I was in awe. And from that day, it was a goal of mine to get to the NBA.”
And to have days like Wednesday, when he could be a kid again while helping youngsters learn everything from fundamentals to the intricacies of shooting and handling the basketball.
Hinton is one of the few Mavericks in Dallas as most have scattered to take some relaxation time or return to their home countries to take part in Olympic qualifying tournaments.
Hinton’s work, however, is taking place in Dallas after he took a quick trip to North Carolina to decompress after the long season.
He played only 21 games for the Mavericks, but he showed promise late in the season with eight points in a 20-point win over Cleveland, followed by an eight-points-in-eight-minutes outing in a lopsided loss at Memphis.
Now, while watching playoff games with an open mind to try to soak up as much information as possible, Hinton is preparing for what will be a busy summer.
“I’m going to set a standard for myself and I’m excited to take the next step,” he said. “Knowing where I fit in, I feel confident I can take that next step. When I put my head down and grind, great things can happen.
“I took a little break, but I was itching to get back in there. I’m getting ready for summer league. That’s what I’m gearing toward.”
Of course, the Mavericks have a few details to take care of before the summer league begins in Las Vegas on Aug. 8 – like hiring a general manager and a head coach.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” Hinton said. “I just try to control what you can control. Go to the gym, work out and stay ready. Be ready to contribute to whoever comes.
“I know Mr. Cuban (owner Mark Cuban) does a great job of trying to get this organization back to that championship. And he’ll do everything in his power to make sure it happens.”
His rookie season was interesting not only because of the COVID-19 ramifications and his jumping from the Mavericks to the G-League bubble for a dozen games. It also featured a proud moment when the Houston Cougars reached the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Baylor.
The Cougars had reached the Sweet Sixteen in Hinton’s freshman season before the tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus in his sophomore season.
“It was incredible,” he said of the Final Four run earlier this year. “Before the season, I knew coach (Kelvin) Sampson had all the keys down there and I knew they were going to do great things. And they did it. I’m just so proud of the guys.”
Hinton, however, had to follow his own path and it led him to Duncanville on Wednesday. Interestingly, it was not the first time he’s been in that fieldhouse, having played an AAU tournament there when he was in high school.
And he was thrilled to be back in the building.
“I see myself in each of those little kids,” Hinton said. “They come to the camps and come to the games and it gets personal. You see yourself in them. It keeps that youthful spirit and keeps that gratitude, because you were once that kid.”
For more information about attending a Mavs Academy camp, visit mavs.com/community/basketballacademy.