Belleville East doesn't have the most distinguished boys basketball history in the state of Illinois.
The Lancers have never won a state championship. Never played in a state semifinal. Never advanced past the Elite Eight.
They've never had a player like Malcolm Hill, either.
The Illinois signee and senior guard/forward is leading the St. Louis Metro East area in scoring at 25.2 points.
He's the school's all-time leading scorer at 1,963 points and counting heading into Belleville East's game on Friday at Alton (Ill.) High School.
And he has the Lancers winning at an impressive rate.
Belleville East takes a 21-3 record into its game with Alton, and could put together a postseason run the St. Clair County school of 2,514 students has never seen before.
"Each and every night we've got to be ready to play," Belleville East head coach Abel Schrader said. "Guys and teams are ready to play against us because of Malcolm. Teams get up for us. They see he's in the newspaper all the time. We've got a tough regional (coming up). We have to play exceptionally well to maybe make a run. We certainly would like to, but a lot of things have to fall our way."
Hill said he's had twice as many double-doubles his senior campaign as he did last season. He's only 17 years old and is technically supposed to be a high school junior, not a kid who will set foot on a college campus next school year.
He's dealing with gimmick defenses every time he puts on his navy blue and white Belleville East jersey, younger fans asking for autographs and knowing he wants to add more weight on his 6-foot-7-inch frame.
"He's a pretty level-headed kid," Schrader said. "I haven't seen anything different from him (personality-wise) from the start of the season towards the end of this season. I know at times he gets frustrated with playing because he sees box-and-ones, and triangle-and-twos on a nightly basis, but he's fought through that, and he realizes he has to make his teammates better."
Mention the five incoming high school seniors who might vie for a spot in John Groce's starting lineup next season, and Hill's name is consistently mentioned to fill a starting spot currently occupied by Brandon Paul or D.J. Richardson.
He has attended the Illinois-Missouri game on Dec. 22 in St. Louis and the Illinois-Michigan game on Jan. 27 in Champaign.
Every chance he gets, he's glued to a television watching Illinois, including last Thursday's pulsating 74-72 overtime win against No. 1 Indiana.
"I was going crazy when D.J. Richardson caught fire," Hill said. "Once again, we started off slow, and we had to come back. I thought it was going to overtime."
Tyler Griffey had a key hand in making sure that didn't happen.
When Griffey's layup kissed in softly off the backboard as time expired, Hill probably would have fit right in with the mad rush of players and Orange Krush members storming the court.
"It gave me goosebumps because we have great support at every game," Hill said. "Every game is a big game at Illinois, and every fan comes out."
The Illini's NCAA Tournament chances increased after Sunday night's 57-53 win at Minnesota, and Hill is confident his future team will find itself among the 68 teams invited to the Big Dance.
Hill, who weighs 205 pounds now, wants to increase his strength after Belleville East's season ends. He plans on arriving at Illinois by June (he said he doesn't have a specific timeline yet, but will most likely enroll in summer school classes).
"I know I have a skinny body," Hill said with a laugh. "I have to get a lot stronger before I start playing in the Big Ten, but I'm not worried about it right now. If I worry about it too much, my jump shot might get thrown off before our season (at Belleville East) ends, and that's what I'm focused on right now."