The journey of EuroLeague star Kyle Hines

The journey of EuroLeague star Kyle Hines

By: Tom Ballato

Kyle Hines, a 6-foot-6 forward/center from Sicklerville, New Jersey, has left his mark everywhere he’s played. His basketball journey has allowed him to play in Italy, Germany, and Russia and share the adventures of other basketball players playing professionally overseas. 

UNC Greensboro 

Hines went to Five-Star Basketball Camp the summer after his junior year of high school. He became close with the founder Howard Garfinkel. Garfinkel introduced him to a counselor who just became the assistant coach at UNC Greensboro, Mitch Buonaguro. The two developed a great relationship, and Hines took a visit to the college.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I felt wanted and also where I can play immediately. That was the only official visit I took, and I came back home and told my parents that’s where I want to go. So I committed there the start of my senior year,” Hines said about his decision to attend UNC Greensboro.

Hines played four years at UNC Greensboro (2004-2008). He scored over 2,000 points, collected over 1,000 rebounds, and is the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He was named Southern Conference’s freshman of the year in 2005 and in 2007 Southern Conference Player of the Year. 

His family and friends were able to celebrate his career when UNC Greensboro retired his jersey during his senior year of college while he was still playing, a feat that doesn’t happen often. Hines finished his four years, averaging 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. 

Professional Career Overseas

After going undrafted in the 2008 NBA Draft, Hines spent time with the Charlotte Bobcats at Las Vegas Summer League. He knew a scout from the Cleveland Cavaliers, who introduced him to an Italian coach. The coach talked to him about why he should go overseas and play. 

Shortly after the summer league, Hines signed with Veroli Basket, a team in Italy’s second division. In his two years with the Veroli, he won two Italian Second Division Cups in 2009 and 2010. He was named the MVP of the Italian Second Division Cup in 2009.

When asked about what adjustments he needed to make playing overseas, Hines responded, “Honestly everything, on the court and off the court. Off the court, it was the first time I was alone being away from home. Veroli is a small village; there are about 5,000 people that live there, so going somewhere where nobody spoke English and spending time alone was the biggest transition. On the court, just getting used to the European style of basketball. The style there is more team-oriented, and you share responsibility with your teammates.”

Hines has older teammates in Italy that helped him with the transition. They had families and would invite him over for dinner and included him in things that they were doing. 

In 2010-2011, Hines joined Brose Baskets in Germany. They played in the EuroLeague and while with the club they won the Super Cup, the German Cup, the league championship. 

Hines signed with Olympiacos of the Greek Basket League in the summer of 2011. In his two years with the club, he won the EuroLeague title twice in 2012 and 2013. Olympiacos won the Greek championship in 2012. 

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hines.

“The first few years helped me because I had players that I was playing with that had EuroLeague experience and that had a high level of basketball experience. I had a coach that had a high level of basketball experience. I took their advice, and I started trying to figure out how I could be most successful. When I got to Germany, I had to play a role. It was the first time I wasn’t the best player on my team, so I had to play a role. It made me understand that it is a true, methodical team-oriented game. You have to play your role and be the best at your role in order for you to play at a high level in Europe,” said Hines when speaking about how his first few years professionally prepared him for EuroLeague.

After two years in Greece, Hines headed to Russia to play for powerhouse CSKA Moscow. He played the last seven seasons with the club, which is unheard of for Americans to remain with a club for multiple seasons. 

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hines.

With CSKA Moscow, Hines won two EuroLeague titles and six straight VTB League titles during his tenure with the club. He was also named the EuroLeague Best Defender twice in 2016 and 2018 and VTB League Best Defender in 2016. 

This past season, Hines averaged 7.8 points, 4.7 rebounds per game on 64% shooting for CSKA. 

The evolution of the game of basketball in regards to teams playing small ball has allowed Hines to be successful. Positionless basketball in Europe plays into his strengths.

As much success that Hines has had overseas, when asked about the thoughts of coming over to see if he can play in the NBA, Hines said, “I’ve been lucky enough to carve out a niche for myself here in Europe. I wanted to play at the highest level possible, and I’ve had thoughts and conversations, but I enjoy the role and success I’ve had in Europe and EuroLeague. Playing in the NBA would be amazing and is everyone’s dream, but for me, I get an opportunity to play and fulfill a role on a championship-caliber with CSKA Moscow. I get an opportunity to compete for titles and championships every season.” 

The NBA isn’t everything to Hines, off the court, he can experience different cultures and see the world with his wife and two children. His family lives with him overseas, and Hines’ wife, Gianna, might even be the best shooter in the family. She played basketball at Adelphi University and was part of their 2018 Hall of Fame class. 

The Basketball Tournament: Team Hines

In 2019, Hines entered a team into The Basketball Tournament. The team, Team Hines, was created to showcase who the best EuroLeague players were. “It became an opportunity for me to play with the players I enjoy playing with, played against, or respect the most. Once we got the yes from Mike James, Nick Calathes, Joey Dorsey, and a bunch of other guys, it became a great experience,” Hines said about playing in the tournament. They enjoyed the competitiveness and the opportunity to play in front of friends and family that haven’t had a chance to see them since college. 

Team Hines entered a team in this year’s TBT, but Hines did not participate. It was in his best interest not to play with his season beginning earlier.

Hoop Tales Podcast

Kyle Hines, Tyler Hines (brother and former professional basketball), and Mike Martin talk basketball and give a platform for basketball players overseas to talk about their journeys. 

With COVID-19, it allowed them to reach out to players because everyone was at home. “We wanted to give guys an opportunity to tell their stories themselves. Our tagline is who is better to tell our story than us. Also, the education factor, I have so many college guys send me messages about how to be successful playing overseas. I wanted them to have a reference point to listen to, so if you want to become a successful player than follow this account or follow Trey Thompkins, Sonny Weems, Jeremy Pargo, J.R. Holden, and listen to guys that have had success,” Hines said, speaking about his podcast. 

End of an era in Russia and a new opportunity in Italy

Hines recently parted ways with CSKA Moscow and signed a two-year deal with Olimpia Milan. 

Olimpia Milan presents a new challenge and experience for Hines. The team recently signed Malcolm Delaney, Kevin Punter, Luigi Datome, Davide Moretti, Shavon Shields and Giordano Bortolani in addition to Hines. Hines and his new teammates have an opportunity to bring Milan back to EuroLeague greatness.

Basketball has taken Hines from a top mid-major college to multiple countries around the world, and he’s won at the highest level in Europe. When asked about when his career is over, what he would like to be remembered most for, Hines responded, “A guy that played the game the right way.” 

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