Lakeland will host two separate open tryouts in late September
ORLANDO – One of the Orlando Magic’s top performers at NBA Summer League last month was Jeremiah Hill, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard originally from Savannah, Georgia.
He particularly stood out in a game against the Brooklyn Nets, when he posted 21 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals. In five games, he averaged eight points and five dimes.
On one hand, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Hill played well in Las Vegas considering he was one of the Lakeland Magic’s most dependable players in 2018-19, making 56 3-pointers, the 11th most among reserve guards in the G League last season. Taking into account the fact that he was a Division II college player and suited up for a minor league basketball team before the G League does make his Summer League showing a little more impressive.
What really makes his hoops journey extraordinary, though, is the fact that the soon-to-be 24-year-old became the second player in Lakeland Magic history to earn a spot on the team through an open tryout. The other was Kevin Foster, a Polk County resident who appeared in 22 games for Lakeland during the team’s inaugural 2017-18 season.
Hill, who played in 44 games last year, remains grateful for the opportunity Lakeland General Manager Anthony Parker and his staff gave him. Although optimistic when he was told to come back for the second day of tryouts, Hill became even more confident about making the squad after receiving some positive feedback from Parker and the other Lakeland scouts.
“I had already played a whole bunch of games on Saturday and then come Sunday I felt like I stood out, but Sunday I didn’t touch the ball as much,” he recalls. “I kind of got pushed to the two, wasn’t touching it as much and they were like don’t worry about that, we know what you bring, just play basketball. And then after I left, they talked to me, they said they would be in contact with me and I felt like I had a pretty good chance after that.”
Playing for the Jacksonville Giants of the American Basketball Association (ABA) helped prepare Hill ahead of his G League tryout. That league toughened him up, he says, and made his transition to Lakeland less intimidating.
“It was so physical. They allow a lot more pushing and it’s rough,” he said about the ABA. “I think that along with some of the older guys that are there, they helped me grow. They were putting everything into perspective of what I have, my opportunity, the window. And then it made me a little bit hungrier so when I came into the tryout I was able to play my game, not trying to score too much but trying to be a point guard. So, it just fell into place.”
Three players – Jonathon Simmons, Alfonzo McKinnie and David Nwaba – earned spots on G League teams through open tryouts before eventually signing with NBA clubs. Simmons, who last played for the Philadelphia 76ers, was a member of the Orlando Magic for a year-and-a-half, while McKinnie is currently on the Golden State Warriors and Nwaba recently signed a free agent contract with the Nets.
Those who plan on trying out for Lakeland this upcoming season should feel more confident knowing that the Magic do look to bolster their roster through the open audition.
Lakeland recently announced its two open tryout dates and locations — Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Auburndale Community Center and Sunday, Sept. 29 at the Orlando Sports Center. Check-in time for each day is 8 a.m. The tryout itself will go from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Participants must select one location and the cost to try out is either $175 in advance or $200 at the door.
Visit lakelandmagic.com/opentryouts for more information.