Hines and his game have grown Spurned in eighth grade, he added 10 inches and lots of skill; today he's a star.

Posted: January 17, 2004

Each year there are eighth-grade phenoms whom high school coaches know extensively. Then there are players such as Timber Creek senior Kyle Hines, who didn't play as an eighth grader, but has developed into one of the top performers in South Jersey.

When Hines was in eighth grade at Mullen School in Gloucester Township, he was cut from the team. At the time, he was a 5-foot-8 guard/forward still trying to define and refine his game.

Since that experience, Hines has grown to 6-6, and has become a force.

"Getting cut from that team was devastating at first," Hines said last week before an evening practice. "But I'm glad it happened and it only made me work harder."

Hines would attend some of the games in eighth grade, vowing to one day prove the coaching staff wrong. It appears as if he has made his point.

He has earned a scholarship to Division I University of North Carolina-Greensboro and is enjoying a banner senior season. Hines, a forward, is averaging 24.6 points and 15 rebounds for the Chargers (7-2), who are in just their third season.

Both Hines and Timber Creek appear vastly improved following a 16-8 season in 2002-03. Hines missed Tuesday's 77-63 win over Paul VI with injuries to both ankles, but returned on Thursday to score 26 points and add 15 rebounds in an 81-45 triumph over Triton.

He didn't immediately explode onto the high school scene. In fact the beginning of his freshman season almost resembled eighth grade.

Hines attended Camden Catholic as a ninth grader, and by his own admission, barely made the freshman team. By then he was 6-2 and his game was slowly growing. After starting the season as a deep reserve, he was a starter by season's end and was also playing some junior varsity.

Hines decided to transfer to Timber Creek as a sophomore, not for basketball reasons, but because of not having to pay tuition at a public school.

"I started deep on the bench my freshman year and worked my way up," he said. "It was then that I started to gain confidence."

He also continued to grow and was an immediate varsity starter his first year at Timber Creek. He has 1,050 career points. Hines is also beginning to expand his game to develop a dependable medium-range jumper.

Other than the growth spurt, there was no other magical formula to his improvement other than old-fashioned hard work. In the summers, Hines would wake up a 5:30 a.m. and run hills to work on his endurance and then go to the gym and work out.

"Kyle has gotten so much better each year," Timber Creek coach Garry Saunders said. "He's taken it to another level this year and one of the reasons is the experience he gained over the summer."

Last summer, Hines was a member of the Dajuan Wagner Rising Stars AAU team. Among his teammates were South Jersey standouts Al Fisher of Pennsauken, Shomari Moore of Camden, Jason Thompson of Lenape and Pennsauken resident Charron Fisher of Philadelphia's Roman Catholic.

There were trips to Indiana and Florida for AAU tournaments. Hines realized that he could measure up against top competition. Then he attended the Five-Star basketball camp in Honesdale, Pa., and excelled there.

"Five Star was a big confidence builder," he said. "I thought I could compete against some of the top players around and that showed me that I could."

Despite his showing in Five Star and a senior season that has consisted of consistent dominance, Hines will never be complacent. The thought of being cut from his eighth-grade team continues to serve as a prime motivator.

"It's something I'll always take with me," he said. "I never want to experience that type of disappointment again."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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