Ole Miss freshman Blake Hinson is constantly trying to evolve as a player and, for the most part, remained ahead of the curve.
The 6-foot-7 guard that can also play in the front court transferred to Sunrise Christian Academy — a prep school in Bel Aire, Kansas — his senior year with the intentions of playing better competition and to become more polished and prepared for the college game.
A native of Deltona, Florida, moving 1,300 miles away from home at the ripe age of 17 can be a daunting challenge.He will be the first to tell you it wasn’t easy. But Hinson, even at a young age, has possessed an ability to look at things through a lens of long term benefit.
“It was tough,” Hinson said. “But it really prepared me for this moment right here. I really feel good. Not all freshman can say they had a good freshman year experience. They might be learning and getting better, but I feel comfortable. I have to give thanks to Sunrise. I had to go through a grind.”
Always eager to take the next step, Hinson reclassified from the class of 2019 to 2018 and signed with Ole Miss late in the recruitment process. He enrolled in school and was on campus by early June.
There’s a steep learning curve for freshmen making the jump from high school to major college basketball, let alone one that should still be a high school senior. The game is more physical and initial results can be humbling. It hasn’t phased Hinson. He’s started all seven games for the Rebels this season, averaging just over nine points per game and has scored in double figures in the team’s last two contests.
“Ever since I was a young kid, I felt I deserved to be on the highest level,” Hinson said. “Last year after I left high school I knew what I was stepping into. All it is work. I make sure I get to the gym and continue to be ready. I always feel like I am the best, so I do not have a problem playing any competition.”
Hinson primarily hovered around the perimeter during the first couple games of the season. Three-point shots dominated his shot selection. Hinson is 6-foot-7 and offers Ole Miss versatile being able to play in the front court in addition to the back court. Head coach Kermit Davis has put him at the four spot a couple of times when electing to go with a smaller lineup. Davis needed more out of Hinson offensively as a result. He called Hinson into his office after two games against Baylor and Cincinnati in Destin and challenged him to score in a more diverse way.
“Every conversation I have with Blake is positive,” Davis said. “I told him that the is going to make a ton of three point shots while he is at Ole Miss, but you can’t have 75 percent of your shots be three pointers. You have to be able to get to the free throw line and get offensive rebounds. We talk about his play-making and ability to make others better. All that is is a freshman trying round out his game. That is a process.”
Hinson is constantly evolving and what makes him a rare talent is the maturity he possesses and his desire to adapt quickly. He adapted to an entirely new world at a boarding school in rural Kansas at the age of 17. He adapted to coming to college a year early and the challenges that brings. Now, he is adapting and evolving in Davis’ offense, quite literally on a game-by-game basis in some respects. Hinson has scored 32 points and pulled six rebounds in his last two games. He is becoming more comfortable with playing within the structure of the offense.
“Early in the year, those were the shots I felt I had presented to me,” Hinson said. “But the more I got comfortable with the offense and everything around me, I found more shots within the offense.”
Davis said after the Rebels’ win over San Diego that it is impossible to beat Hinson to the gym each day. Hinson is the son of a basketball coach. He responds to criticism better than most at his age, making it easier on Davis to mold him into the player they both know Hinson can be.
“He is terrific,” Davis said. “Dad is a coach. His dad is probably Blake’s biggest critic. When you get that family dynamic, that first time I met them on his official visit, you knew that dynamic was going to be good. They have a son that is going to be encouraged at home, but we can also coach him and the family is going to understand it.”