Hill enjoys time with USA Basketball

Hill enjoys time with USA Basketball

Hear more from Klee Saturday at 10 on WDWS.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — On one court was Anthony Randolph, an NBA veteran of seven seasons and a professional rookie when Malcolm Hill was 12.

On another was Damien Wilkins, old enough to have played for the Seattle SuperSonics. And don’t forget Keith Langford, who, at 31, has 12 years on Hill.

“I’m going against ‘daddy strength’ right now. That’s what I call it,” Hill said earlier this week after a workout at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. “They’re in their 30s.”

Hill is 19, so the Illinois forward was winning even before cuts were made at these Pan Am tryouts on Thursday. Hill was not one of the 16 finalists announced Thursday for a final spot on the 12-man roster, but was one of 22 players invited out west.

Playing for USA Basketball is a win. Along with Purdue big man Isaac Haas, who’s also 19, he faced what amounts to a basketball generational gap.

The Pan Am games are different. For one, there’s no age limit, so you can have Langford, who plays in Russia, alongside the likes of Hill, Haas, Nigel Hayes and Melo Trimble — college kids playing in the Big Ten. Haas was among the cuts on Thursday, with Hayes and Trimble still in a position to make the team.

How Hill performed this week was irrelevant, even. This caliber of experience has a way of boosting a player’s career.

“I think I’ve been playing average. I could be doing better at a lot of things. I think that’s a lot of me being nervous,” Hill said. “But it’s a lot of fun for me being out here against some great competition and guys I’ve seen on TV. I’ve watched a lot of these guys. To be out here with them, it’s been pretty special.”

During a scrimmage Wednesday, Hill came off the bench and was teamed with Langford, Fred Van Fleet (Wichita State), Josh Scott (Colorado) and Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona). He defended Oklahoma senior Isaiah Cousins and played the 3, the position he’s expected to play next season for Illinois.

John Groce traveled to Colorado in support of Hill before flying out to the East Coast to begin the July recruiting period.

“That meant a lot for him to come out here. He’s been real supportive of me,” Hill said. “He gave me some feedback on what I did and what I can improve on.”

Between sessions, Hill also got positive feedback from Mark Few, the Gonzaga coach who is serving as the head coach for USA Basketball.

And what about teaming up with those Big Ten guys?

“That’s way different, way different. During Big Ten play, we’re enemies. Now we’re playing on the same team,” Hill said. “You already know their strengths and weaknesses and know what their game is like.”

Hill is virtually a different player from where he was three years ago. He played last season at 230 pounds and now is down to 217. Whatever Illini strength coach Mike Basgier is doing, keep doing it.

“I’ve been changing my eating habits, so I’ve trimmed down and gotten leaner. It’s all baby fat I’ve lost,” Hill said. “I feel lighter on the court, more explosive. It’s hard to notice against these guys, though.”

Daddy strength, right?

“Against these guys, I don’t notice it as much,” Hill said. “At the college level I can. But not here.”

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westcoast wrote on July 10, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Klee, good to hear from you.

JimOATSfan wrote on July 10, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Hey Klee good coverage!

What do you think of the Bears assembling the Bronco's coaches? I think they got the better end of the deal. What was John E thinking???

Enjoy the upcoming nfl season.