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Utah basketball: Even beat up, Chris Hines is Utes’ most important player
Utah hoops » Hines battles injuries, speech impediment to become a team leader.

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"Don’t talk to that dude," they said. "He can’t talk."

Hines’ response was simple: "Let’s fight."

At a glance

The Chris Hines file

Age » 22

Hometown » Houston

Position » Guard

Points per game » 8.9

Memorable moment » On Feb. 16, 2011, Hines banked in a 25-foot 3-pointer to beat New Mexico in The Pit. Utah hasn’t won on the road since.

Utah at Arizona State

At Wells Fargo Arena (Tempe, Ariz.)

Tipoff » Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

TV » None

Radio » 700 AM

Records » Utah 5-18 (2-9); ASU 7-16 (3-8)

Series » Utah, 26-18

Last meeting » Utah, 64-43 (Jan. 21)

About the Utes » Utah has lost four straight games since beating the Sun Devils at home Jan. 21. Cedric Martin led the Utes with 17 points in that game. … Center Jason Washburn leads the Utes with 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The junior had a career-high eight blocks Saturday against Oregon State. … The Utes’ 18 losses have been by an average of 14.7 points.

About the Sun Devils » ASU is 1-5 in games without guard Trent Lockett, who is expected to return Thursday from an ankle injury. Lockett leads the team with 13.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. … Forward Carrick Felix scored 20 points Saturday in a win over Washington State.

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Hines still stutters, words often sticking in his throat before he says them, but there’s no hesitation.

"I wish I didn’t stutter," Hines said, "but at the same time, it is who I am."

‘I just kept working’

With divorced parents, Hines spent various stages of his childhood living with each. And just as much time was spent with his grandparents in their Houston neighborhood of Studewood, which he describes as full of homes that once belonged to slaves and servants; streets that you avoided after dark because of the bad houses. The crack houses.

Once he was old enough, Hines started going to work with his grandfather, Harvest Jones.

"It made me realize that a broken bone can’t stop you from doing anything," Hines said. "Mentality is the only thing that can stop you from doing it."

Now 73, Jones traveled on an airplane for the first time last week. He came to Salt Lake City and watched his grandson score 20 points against Oregon, then just one against Oregon State.

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Earlier in the week, Hines was questionable to play because of his ankle. But he wasn’t going to miss a game because of the injury. Not with his grandfather in the stands, the man who once went back to work after breaking his wrist.

"I never really thought too much ’bout it," Jones said last week. "I just kept working."

Pushing through

After practice Monday, Hines stayed long after the Huntsman Center floor had cleared of players. He shot 3-pointers with an assistant coach until it was time to turn his attention to the media.

Years ago, he had to be prodded to speak. Now, he’s a spokesman.

Hines no longer has to break into the gym — it’s available to him whenever he wants.

"If you come in here at some odd hours, like some off-class hours, he’s here shooting," Utah guard Cedric Martin said. "He comes in here early before games and shoots and nobody sees him."

When he was finished Monday, Hines turned toward the small training room under the first rows of arena seats. Inside awaited an endless supply of ice and a machine that would soothe his ankle. When he reached the door, Hines pushed through, as he has always done.

boram@sltrib.comTwitter: @oramb

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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