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Jimmy Hall is like a lot of seniors at Kent State University. He will graduate this weekend and hit the pavement in search of a career.
For Hall, the first destination is Las Vegas, next week, when he takes part in a combine for overseas pro basketball scouts.
It will be the start of a summer in which Hall gets his foot in the door, where he begins to play the game he loves for pay.
Where? He’s not yet sure. How? That is something he doesn’t doubt. When? He thinks it’s only a matter of time.
“I feel like I made the necessary leaps, achieved the goals I set for myself,” Hall told AmicoHoops of his senior year. “I think I gave scouts a chance to see what I can do, that my season went very well.”
Hall is 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds. He led the Golden Flashes to the MAC tournament title and an NCAA tourney berth. He is a throwback low-post player, someone with excellent footwork and crafty hands. He can put the ball through the hoop in any number of ways.
Scouts will tell you Hall is more power forward than small. Others will tell you he is just a basketball player, a good fit in today’s mostly position-less game. Hall is just skilled, period, they will say.
And when it comes to potential NBA draft sleepers, he is getting lots of love.
“At the end of last season, scouts told me I needed to work on my jump shot and try to become a double-digit rebounder,” Hall said. “So those were two of the things I set out to do.”
Hall wanted it, Hall got it. He extended his shooting range. He averaged 19.0 points and 10.6 rebounds. He shot 52 percent from the floor. He captured the attention of pro scouts and college fans all across the land.
“He’s one of the best to ever put on a Kent State uniform,” Flashes coach Rob Senderoff said during the season. “It’s not going to be easy to replace him.”
STOP IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Hall and the Flashes received national attention after drawing Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the NCAA first round. Ball is a projected top-three draft pick.
Hall is a big man and Ball a guard, so they never really went head-to-head. But Hall played every bit as well — as the Flashes gave themselves a fighting chance before suffering a 97-80 loss.
“It was a great experience,” Hall said. “Just having watched the tournament on TV growing up, you try to imagine how it is, and once you get there, it turned out to be everything you imagined. We fought hard, but UCLA was a great team. I’m just glad I had a chance to get there before it was all said and done.”
Hall finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and shot 9 of 18 from the field. It was one of his best games on perhaps his grandest stage.
Big game, big showing. Those are the type of performances talent-evaluators tend to notice.
“I’m a hard worker and I feel like I can help any team with my overall energy,” Hall said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help a team win. Whether it’s low-post scoring or rebounding — I have a desire to get better every day.”
Following the season, Hall headed to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia.
It’s where some of the nation’s best college seniors are placed on teams and battle it out in front of pro scouts. Hall represented himself well, averaging 14.7 points on 54 percent shooting. He also grabbed 6.7 rebounds in his three games.
Not bad when you consider these type of showcases rarely give low-post threats a chance to shine. Instead, it often consists of guards dribbling up the court, waving off the big men, and jacking up 20-footers.
“I felt like it went pretty well,” Hall said. “I didn’t play as well as I could have in my second game, but I made the most of the chances that I got. Playing there is kind of like pickup or AAU, so you just have to try to show your energy and effort. But I also felt like it was a great experience being around the other guys, picking their minds and using them to help me become a better player.”
Within the next week or two, NBA teams will begin inviting prospects in for workouts to prepare for the draft and to form summer-league rosters.
The nearby Cleveland Cavaliers are team believed to have a strong interest in Hall. Overall, he has three workouts scheduled, with more surely on the way.
“I’m just waiting for after the (pre-draft) combine, working out and staying in shape,” he said. “I also have the overseas tryout in Vegas (May 16). It’s a good fallback in case the NBA doesn’t work out.”
So far, scouts have been telling Hall to just keep doing what he’s doing.
“I’ve gotten good feedback, been told to keep working,” he said. “They have indicated they’re impressed with my game.”
FOREVER A FLASH
Hall is native of Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a key member of the St. Anthony (N.J.) High School team that went 33-0 his senior year.
But Kent eventually became home, a place where Hall admittedly turned a man and developed the skills needed to take his game other places.
His mother even moved to Kent from Brooklyn, just to be closer to her son as he completed his senior year.
“She was born and raised in Brooklyn. But being New Yorkers, we can adjust to anywhere,” Hall said. “It’s different than Brooklyn, but she’s gotten used to it.”
Hall will graduate with a degree in educational studies. He is proud of that accomplishment, and the accomplishments that still await. He says he will forever be grateful that Kent helped get him to where he’s going.
“Kent State changed my life,” he said. “It was amazing. I never thought all these accolades could happen. I just wanted to stay the course, and being here really helped me with that.”
Mostly, Kent State helped Hall become a pro.
“The people here, the coaches, they all helped me mature,” he said. “They helped me go through the process of growing up and becoming an adult. I’m very appreciative of Kent State. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t come here.”