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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hill ready to break out

    Jordan Hill introduced himself to the college basketball world as a freshman last season.

    Now the sophomore forward’s ready for an encore.

    “”I played half a year,”” Hill said. “”That got my name out there. My name’s still out there, but people want to see more, see what more I can do.””

    After receiving sporadic playing time throughout the first part of the season, Hill’s big break came when coaches suspended former forward Marcus Williams for the Jan. 24 game against ASU and inserted Hill into the starting lineup.

    After scoring 12 points and grabbing nine boards in that game, and then recording a double-double off the bench Jan. 27 against then-No. 4 North Carolina, Hill started the season’s final 11 contests.

    “”I knew I had game,”” Hill said. “”I just needed a chance to come out there and showcase it, and Coach gave me a chance against Arizona State. I said to myself, ‘This is my time to shine.’ “”

    To some extent, Hill’s production served as an added bonus for the Wildcats last year, from a player

    Jordan Hill has come a long way since being an unheralded high school player

    Only played two years of organized high school basketball

    Not ranked among Rivals.com’s top 150 prospects of the class of 2006

    Averaged 2.1 points per game, 2.1 rebounds, 0.25 blocks in first 16 games last season

    Averaged 8.0 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, 1.39 blocks in last 13 games

    Owns career highs of 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks

    who came in with limited basketball experience after not playing as a junior in high school.

    He averaged 10.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in his final six home starts, but still struggled with consistency on the road, averaging 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds.

    Hill came to Arizona as a project, a 6-foot-10 player with athleticism and quickness but raw skills and not much of an offensive game to speak of. UA head coach Lute Olson said at times in practice the coaching staff would be talking about a drop step, and Hill would respond, “”Where do I drop the step?””

    Olson hopes to see Hill, with a year of seasoning, continue to work on staying out of foul trouble.

    In Arizona’s Nov. 8 exhibition game, Hill picked up two fouls in just over two minutes, leading the Wildcats to play a hodgepodge of players in the middle.

    Hill’s importance has increased as he’s made improvements in his offensive game, including the addition of a jump shot he worked on every day over the summer from every part of the court.

    Last year, his game consisted of jump hooks and put-backs, but now he said he feels comfortable taking and hitting mid-range jumpers.

    “”It’s going to help my game a lot,”” Hill said. “”I’m not such a big guy, I’m not such a strong guy. I’m going to be going against some big boys, so that’s a good chance for me to get my (points).””

    An improved jumper, along with his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities, makes Hill an NBA prospect, but he said he’s not rushing anything.

    “”The reason I’m not rushing it is if I can go next year, hey, I’ll go, if I’m hot,”” he said. “”If I’m not, you’ll see me back here.””

    Hill could get some help up front from center Kirk Walters, but at this point it’s unclear how much Walters can offer. What isn’t questioned is the presence Walters’ teammates believe he can provide if he regains his conditioning.

    That process has not been easy for Walters, who missed all but three minutes in two games last year battling a bad bout of mononucleosis, for which he received a medical redshirt for a second senior year.

    “”It was frustrating because in one sense you don’t know if the redshirt’s going to go through,”” Walters said. “”You just don’t feel good. It’s such a long process coming back from that.””

    With the size in the Pacific 10 Conference this season, from Stanford twin towers Brook and Robin Lopez to UCLA big men Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Wildcats may need both Hill and Walters at times.

    “”Normally, in past years, it seems like we always run into teams that have a smaller lineup,”” Walters said, “”but I think there’s a lot more big guys in the league this year, so it’s just more fun for me and Jordan.””

    UA assistant coach Josh Pastner, who works with the big men, said Walters’ presence can make an impact for the Wildcats because he takes up space, alters the game and has a good feel for how to play entering his fifth season.

    “”We need Kirk. Kirk knows we need him,”” Pastner said. “”With a healthy Kirk, we can do some really good things this year. It’s a tremendous advantage to have him in the game.””

    Having Walters join Hill for some frontcourt minutes could help Arizona execute its man-to-man defense, where the big men would have a better chance of holding their own down low while also following O’Neill’s defensive philosophy of allowing no easy shots in the paint.

    “”That’ll be something, too,”” Hill said with a smile. “”Kirk’s blocking shots, I’m blocking shots. It’s going to be a nice little tandem.””

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