Before Cameron Hildreth can think about picking up a ball, there’s a lot to do.

Ditto ahead of taking his not-inconsiderable young talent into twice-weekly excursions in the British Basketball League. Simply, he has demands on his schedule familiar to most 18-year-olds in the UK.

“I’m training every day, getting extra reps up, but trying to balance schoolwork as well,” Surrey Scorchers wunderkind outlines. Triple sport is his holistic subject of choice. Like most British teens, learning during Covid has involved precious little time in school itself.

“At the moment is online, especially if I’m training everyday with these guys.” Possibly a small perk of the pandemic, if such things truly exist.

Wriggling clear of the restrictions, the Great Hope of UK hoops is making the most of the liberties presented, many afforded as a consequence of his mid-season move from Worthing Thunder to Surrey, and all the additional opportunities that offered.

Due to depart for North Carolina on June 1, his impending scholarship to Wake Forest University renders him an amateur among professionals. Not, however, a boy amongst men with Hildreth’s muscular frame, speed and quickfire decision-making abilities providing him within a seamless transition into the BBL.

“I’m really enjoying it,” he proclaims. “I think it’s a great step for me from Division One. Being able to train with these guys every week, every day, it’s been really good for me, for my preparation to get to Wake.”

Eight points, four rebounds and a couple of assists in 20 minutes per are just the cherry on top of extra shooting drills and the assorted learnings in the gym in Guildford.

“He works incredibly hard,” his team-mate Tayo Ogedengbe confides. A necessary component in the plan, Hildreth adds.

“I wanted to just play against better players every day? You know, learning at a faster pace. Just working hard, just making sure I can improve in every aspect of the game and learn new things from more experienced people that have already been where I’m going to go.”

There are aspects to work on, certainly. He has converted a mere four of his 28 three-point attempts, many taken in haste although with admirable self-confidence. Free throws, readily earned, have sagged. Relentless at getting into the lane, Wake will be an ideal spot to raise his jumper to the rafters.

He can, and will, lean on his father Danny, now 44, and a wise veteran of the domestic scene, from his own BBL days at myriad clubs, Derby, Brighton and Ware included.

Regularly a coach to his son since he first entered the club ranks aged 13, his careful nurturing saw his offspring showcase his wares to colleges by averaging over 20 points per contest in the NBL before he even snared his driving licence.

That he shone in the Euroleague’s NextGen tournament helped attract multiple offers from America.

Throughout a recruitment process undertaken virtually rather than on campus, Danny was there to guide and advise.

“My dad, he’s been around for so many years through basketball,” his son relates.

“And you know, he’s definitely had an influence on me playing basketball. He’s probably the main reason I am who I am today.

“Because of the coaching advice has been given me and the way he’s been training me through the years. He’s definitely been a big impact on my career.”

Their collusion separated Wake from the pack of suitors. The Demon Deacons will look to their British signing to radically improve a team which has slumped since past glories enjoyed when the likes of Tim Duncan and Chris Paul passed through their doors.

With a 6-16 record in an abbreviated season, and a speedy exit from the ACC Tournament last month, expectations upon the freshman and his new colleagues will be limited as a consequence. But, adds Ogedengbe, “the one thing you see with Cam is he absolutely hates to lose.”

No matter how Wake accelerates, Hildreth knows that back home, all eyes will be on him – just as they have been since he promoted himself into the BBL.

“I try not to be fazed by it. I just come here and play my game. trust myself. All the talk that people say about pressure and stuff, I don’t really get fazed by it.

“The opportunity that I’m about to go to is unbelievable. It makes me speechless. The opportunity the coaches have given me, to be able to go play in the best league, the ACC, going against the best teams in college basketball, it is going to be great for me.

“And I can’t wait to get out there.”

He feels ready. Prepared. Aiming high.

“The dream is to play at the highest level,” he underlines. “So the dream has always been to go to college in America and get to the NBA.”

More than anything, I want basketball to be my job, Hildreth adds. But it has been a decade since the UK sent anyone to the NBA. A nation expects. No pressure.

“I’m definitely humbled by it,” he smiles. “A lot of people are with me on this one, rooting for me, and I appreciate everyone out there.

“But yeah, it would be exciting if I could be the next one.”

This previously appeared in The Post Up – MVP’s regular email newsletter with exclusive news and features – Subscribe today.

Photos: Ahmedphotos

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