Kyle Hines had the choice years ago to go to an NBA training camp or cast his lot in Europe. He decided the latter and hasn't looked back.
A 2004 graduate of Timber Creek, where he was an Inquirer first-team all-South Jersey selection as a senior, Hines has had a successful basketball career in Europe.
"I had chances to go to NBA camps with Cleveland and Charlotte, but I thought overseas would be a better opportunity to get better and learn the game," Hines said in a phone interview.
Hines attended Camden Catholic as a freshman before transferring to Timber Creek. He was on the first basketball team at Timber Creek, playing for coach Garry Saunders.
"He's the greatest kid I ever coached in my life," Saunders said. "He had such a great work ethic, was humble and was so unselfish. He is loved in our school."
Saunders was a high school teammate of Julius Erving at Roosevelt High in New York. Leon Saunders, Garry's older brother, is the one who gave Erving his famous nickname, "Dr. J."
Erving recently saw his high school No. 42 retired.
At Timber Creek, Hines wore No. 42. It was no coincidence.
"I gave him No. 42 because Julius wore it in high school," said Saunders, now a vice principal at Timber Creek. "Kyle reminded me of Julius with his personality, the way he carried himself and the way he wanted to be the best he could possibly be."
Hines, who scored 1,426 points in his three varsity seasons at Timber Creek, returns to South Jersey for summers and conducts a basketball camp at his high school alma mater.
"I feel Gloucester Township and Sicklerville have done so much for me, and I want to give back and do stuff for the people," Hines said. "I feel I have a knowledge of the game that I want to share with the kids."
There are a lot of experiences to share.
Hines played college basketball at North Carolina-Greensboro, where he finished with 2,187 points and 1,047 rebounds and averaged 18.2 points in his career. He was recruited there by then-coach Fran McCaffery, now the head coach at Iowa.
Hines then began his European journey, starting in Italy, then moving to Germany, and he joined Greek powerhouse Olympiacos in 2011. There he won two EuroLeague titles, and then he moved to his current team, CSKA Moscow, for the 2013-14 season. At CSKA Moscow, he won his third EuroLeague championship in 2016. He is one of only four players in EuroLeague history to have reached six consecutive Final Fours.
"The EuroLeague is the NBA version of European basketball," Hines said. "The competition is outstanding."
Hines says he has enjoyed living in Russia, although he says the language is difficult to learn. He is provided with a driver/translator and says many people there speak English.
He sometimes has to pinch himself when realizing how far basketball has taken him.
"I have been very fortunate to live in a lot of great cities and environments," he said. "To live outside of Rome, Athens, now living in Moscow, I have gotten a chance to be in some of the best cities in the world."
He is in his fifth season playing for highly regarded CSKA Moscow, and the 31-year-old Hines has no intention of slowing down. Entering the weekend, his team was 17-2 overall, 9-2 in EuroLeague and 8-0 in the Russian VTB League.
"We have had a great start to the season, but we know in the EuroLeague competition that is a marathon, not a sprint," Hines said.
Sort of like his playing career, one that the 6-foot-6 Hines wants to keep going "as long as I can," he said.
Who can blame him since he is getting paid to do what he loves? That is something he aspired to do upon his graduation from Timber Creek, and he has certainly fulfilled that mission.