Malcolm Hill is unlike most of his Chicago Bulls teammates.
He’s visited France plenty.
“Because my teams would play teams in France,” Hill said.
That’s because Hill, a Bulls two-way contract player in his second NBA season, took the long way to the league.
For many Bulls players, this week’s trip to Paris is a lifetime experience. For Hill, it’s a reminder of his professional roots.
After going undrafted from Illinois in 2017, Hill traveled the globe. He played in Germany, Kazakhstan, Israel and the Philippines. Wherever the job took him. He didn’t crack into the NBA until last season when all his efforts earned him a 10-day contract with Atlanta. The Bulls followed suit when his Hawks contract expired, and Chicago has retained Hill since on a two-way contract.
Hill has appeared in only three games this season, but the persistent pursuit of his dream is what has landed him on an NBA roster. While the NBA is in France to showcase its product, Hill will tell you it was his international experiences that helped get him here.
Hill, 26, said he grew as a player and person from his time overseas.
“As a person, you kind of have to adjust to their culture,” he said. “And you’re on such a major time difference for 10 months. You’re kind of on your own for real. I mean, you can only play so many video games. It was kind of different for me when I first left college. But it allowed me to grow in a lot of ways, just trying different stuff, doing different hobbies and activities, which I still do to this day which helps me out a lot as a person.”
Hill also learned how to be a pro.
“The things I do outside the court,” he said. “Before practice. After practice. Even when I’m not doing basketball. Just keeping my mental right.”
On the court, Hill had to evolve. For much of his four seasons with the Fighting Illini, Hill had free reign. He sheepishly admitted he had a one-track mind.
“The basketball is very different (overseas),” Hill said. “It’s more team-concept oriented. When I was in college, I was the guy. Just score the ball. That was kind of my main focus. When I went overseas they were, like, ‘Nah, you’ve got to do more stuff than just score the basketball.’
“I had the ball in my hands less. It taught me to be effective without the ball. So I was able to improve my game in other ways. I feel like that’s kind of helped me when I got back over here dating back to last year in the G League. You know how the G League can be. Some people try to score their way out, which works for some. But I kind of found (other) ways.”
With his international experience, Hill was able to advise some of his teammates on how to make the most of the trip. He suggests they all explore: walk the streets, interact with the locals, sit down for a face-drawing.
“One thing I’m excited to do is I’m excited to get some of that cologne that’s out there,” Hill said about the trip to Paris. “They say they’ve got some of the best cologne ever over there. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Hill remembers his international days fondly — for the most part.
“I wouldn’t call Kazakstan a bad experience. I would just call it a different one,” Hill said. “It’s a little different, negative 40 degrees. It gets a little cold. People don’t really speak English as much over there.
“But it’s just an opportunity to kind of learn something else. There’s a different world outside of what I know; English, America, that stuff.”
Hill got to extend the international experience to his parents who had never been out of the country. His father saw him play in Germany. His mother caught a contest in the Philippines.
The memories and development, Hill said, more than made up for other drawbacks, such as having to personally wash his uniforms and grow comfortable with air drying them.
“And then coming back over here just appreciating all the resources we have over here,” Hill said. “Because they don’t, how can I put this, they don’t have as many resources over there as in the NBA. This is the top of the top. So just the little things like people rebounding for me, I appreciate.”