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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hill turns to coaching after successful career

Kevin Brost / Daily Wildcat
Kevin Brost / Daily Wildcat Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach E.C. Hill speaks about her career and her induction into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Photo taken at McKale Center on November 8, 2011.

E.C. Hill is all smiles.

The Arizona women’s basketball assistant coach was recently inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame alongside basketball legends Isiah Thomas, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers. Hill wasn’t able to attend the induction ceremony because of her duties at Arizona, but she appreciates being honored alongside the basketball greats.

“I’m really privileged to get that,” Hill said, “so I’m really humbled and excited that I have this honor, and just looking at the people that I’m going in with — wow. The class is pretty impressive.”

Hill is in her first season with the Wildcats after serving as an assistant coach at Northern Illinois for six years. Between working with head coach Niya Butts and mentoring Arizona’s guards, Hill loves every second of her new gig.

“She’s just a really good coach,” junior Davellyn Whyte said of Hill. “You can tell she knows exactly what she’s talking about.”

Hill’s office in McKale Center is littered with memorabilia from her career — a highly successful and accolade-filled career at that.

Her basketball journey began in Chicago, where she was the No. 2 high school basketball player in the country behind eventual WNBA star Lisa Leslie. One of the best moments of Hill’s entire basketball career came in high school, when she was named the state’s player of the year.

“Girls basketball in Chicago is really big time,” Hill said. “One of my best honors was when I was player of the year. That’s one of my fondest memories.”

Scoring 73 points in a single game will make people notice, but according to Hill, the feat wasn’t as impressive in reality as it was on paper.

Going into that 73-point game, Hill was in the running against Leslie for national player of the year. So, in large part because of Leslie’s clear height advantage, which made it easy to put up big numbers at the high school level, Hill’s coaches came up with a plan.

“I’m 5-foot-7, she’s 6-foot-5 and my coaches were saying we gotta do something to try and get this award,” Hill said.

The team had a game against a mediocre opponent, so her coaches’ strategy was pretty simple that day — give E.C. the ball.

“Unfortunately, the team we played against was not very good so no one else shot the ball but me,” Hill said. “We was trying to get this award.

“My teammates bought into what my high school coach was trying to do for me for the award,” Hill added, “and I was the only one that shot the ball in the game. It was kind of set up for me.”

Afterward, the press criticized Hill and her team for taking advantage of a lesser opponent, and Hill said she and her team apologized to their opponents afterward.

But karma struck despite the apology. Soon after Hill’s 73-point game, Leslie dropped 105 points on an opponent. In the end, Leslie won the award, but Hill’s path toward a lengthy career was just beginning.

She received scholarship offers from numerous top-notch basketball programs. As the No. 2-ranked basketball player in the country, she had the ability to go anywhere. Instead of going to a bigger, more renowned school, Hill stayed close to home and played for Northern Illinois.

“At that time, NIU was like really, really good, so it wasn’t a shocker for me to go there.” Hill said. “People were shocked that I took that route, but looking back it was the best route for me.”
Hill had a successful career at NIU and was eventually inducted into the Northern Illinois University Hall of Fame.

When she graduated, Hill made stops playing for professional teams all over the map. Internationally she played in countries ranging from Iceland to Greece to Italy, and in the WNBA, she played in Charlotte, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Orlando.

When her playing career finally ended, she knew she wanted to stick with the sport she loved, so Hill began her coaching career. After faltering initially as the head coach at Robert Morris, Hill found her niche back at her alma mater.

“I knew I wanted to stay in basketball in some capacity, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Hill said. “Coaching, I hear so many horror stories. It’s a lifestyle now, so I’m used to it.”

After coaching at NIU for six seasons, Hill decided it was time to advance her career, and when an opportunity to join Butts’ coaching staff opened, she pounced. After some email, Facebook and phone conversations, she secured the job.

With the approval of her daughter, she made the move to Tucson.

Now she is coaching alongside Butts, focusing on the development of guards such as Whyte, Candice Warthen and Shanita Arnold.

“I love it,” Hill said. “I have great people around me.”

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