ONE HILL OF A PLAYER

One look into Collin Hill’s eyes and you could tell he was whipped. Sick with a significant fever just a few hours earlier, South Hamilton’s 6-foot-5 do-everything junior had laid it all on the floor for 32 minutes in a Class 2A substate game against second-ranked Dike-New Hartford inside the Roundhouse in Marshalltown on that seasonably warm late February night.

Facing an uphill battle no one expected the Hawks to climb, Hill carried his club to the point that South Hamilton had a chance to pull off the upset and claim a spot in the state tournament. That Dike-New Hartford held on for a 61-57 victory was disappointing, no doubt, but it didn’t diminish Hill’s efforts – a 21-point explosion in the fourth quarter and a stat line of 27 points and 12 rebounds.

With great talent comes great expectations, and Hill more than met them that night. It was just a microcosm of the season.

Following a junior campaign in which he ranked among the top 10 in scoring and rebounding in 2A, Hill was named to the all-state first team by the Iowa Newspaper Association today. It’s not an honor that he sought out to receive, but it’s one he certainly appreciates. He earned it, too.

“I thought the season went pretty well

HILL, See Page 14

HILL

From Page 13

and I thought I played how the team needed me to play,” Hill, who averaged 21.1 points and 10.6 rebounds on the season, said. “It took a while to adjust to everything, but I got more comfortable as the season went on.”

Hill was named to the elite squad as a utility player – a perfect position for the MacGyver of the team. It wasn’t surprising to see him play all five positions during a game and more often than not he thrived.

The Division I college prospect can handle the rock out top. He can bury the outside jumper. He can attack and produce off the bounce. He can score with his back to the basket.

Taking away his entire arsenal is simply not an option, not at the prep level anyway.

“I’ve had conversations before where people ask me ‘what is he?’ Is he a forward or center, or is he a guard?” Nathan Hill, Collin’s father and head coach, said. “The truth is he’s really whatever we need him to be on any given night. So this (all-state award) is a great honor because it really solidifies all of the hard work he’s put in, especially with everything he’s been through with the injury.”

Ah, yes, the injury – the broken leg Hill suffered during the fall of 2014 on the football field that ended his sophomore basketball campaign before it even started. Coming off a freshman season in which he averaged better than 16 points per game and led the Hawks to the state tournament for the first time in more than two decades, he was an all-state prospect prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign.

He spent those three months sporting a cast and street clothes instead of high tops and a jersey.

Hill will no doubt leave South Hamilton a little more than a year from now as one of the school’s all-time best basketball players. And if he had been able to play as a sophomore? He’d most likely have owned the program’s record book.

As it stands now, Hill has scored 926 career points and he needs just 74 to become only the sixth player in school history to reach 1,000. A hefty senior season could push him all the way up to No. 2 on the scoring leaderboard, currently held by his uncle Peter Hill (1,518). Reaching all-time king Brad Barkema (1,906) isn’t going to happen – not in three years anyway. But if he had four years …

Hill also owns 395 career rebounds. He pulled down 254 this season and a similar effort next year will move him into the top three at South Hamilton. Again, give him four years and Barkema’s all-time record (770) would have been in jeopardy.

The numbers are special, but they’re not what motivates Hill. Talk to him for even one minute and it becomes abundantly clear that all he wants to do is win. If he has to score 20 points or more – something he did 13 times as a junior, including in five of the Hawks final six games – he’ll do that. But if he only needs to score a few buckets and concentrate on other areas, that’s fine as well.

Hill admits that he expected South Hamilton to be better than its 14-10 record. He had eyes on a Heart of Iowa Conference championship, and maybe there were times when he pressed too had, particularly early on when the Hawks struggled.

The good, the bad, he learned from it all. And so he’ll spend the next few months on the AAU circuit honing his talent as he tries to lock up that college scholarship that he covets.

“I just want to work on everything and keep getting better and better,” he said. “I want to get quicker … ball handling, my outside game, I want to improve there as well.”

The sky really is the limit for this kid. And the best is yet to come.