Phills started out in college as a premed student, but he took an animal-science course as a sophomore, was "fascinated" by it and switched majors. "I didn't grow up on a farm or anything," he says. "We just had a dog." At Southern he worked with farm animals, and Phills says he one day might buy a horse-and-cattle ranch. At this point he's not planning to go back to school for the four years required to become a vet. "I'd like to play seven or eight more years," he says. "Then I might own a veterinary clinic."
When he graduated from Southern, such a long and lucrative career seemed unlikely for Phills. He was drafted 45th by Milwaukee in 1991 and then waived in mid-December. Phills toiled most of that season in the CBA until Cleveland signed him to a 10-day contract in March. He stuck with the Cavaliers in 1992-93 but was used sparingly, and when new coach Mike Fratello opened preseason camp for '93-94, Phills had to squeeze onto a roster fat with guaranteed contracts.
"I loved everything about Bobby," Fratello says. "I knew he could play in the league. But I didn't know if I could keep him."
Right before the season began, guard Terrell Brandon came down with mononucleosis and forward Larry Nance injured his knee, ensuring a spot on the team for Phills. With Cleveland 7-14, Fratello inserted Phills into the lineup, first at small forward and then at shooting guard. He has remained there ever since. The Cavaliers went 40-21 the rest of 1993-94, and they are 151-108 since Phills became a starter.
"When those guys got hurt," Phills says, "Coach looked down the bench, and only I was left. But I never doubted myself. I knew in the right situation I'd stick." After all, sticking—whether an open three-pointer or on an opposing guard—is what Phills does best.