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The Daily Wildcat

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Arizona basketball’s Hill dribbling to success

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Arizona’s Solomon Hill is a jack-of-all trades — he led Wildcats in rebounds and assists last season, and Arizona’s second-leading scorer, paving the way for an All-Conference honor.

Through five games this year, Hill has consistently maintained a high level of play, grabbing the third-most rebounds, second-most assists. Hill is also tied for the Wildcats’ leading scorer.

Hill’s athleticism and his 6-foot-7 frame could have a lot to do with his balanced set of skills, but it all boils down to something simple, elementary in fact. It’s Hill’s ability to dribble that separates him, and it’s becoming a huge trend in basketball today.

“My dad told me, ‘No matter how tall you are, you’re going to have the need to dribble. It’s going to be something that you have to work on,’” Hill said. “And then you look at today’s youth. Usually the tallest guy on the team is the center and then as he grows, as long as he’s the tallest guy with his program he’s going to be the center.

“But then you look at guys in different situations. If you’re 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-6 in high school and you’re still playing the center it kind of takes away what you want to do at the college level.”

And, of course, what you want to do in the NBA.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, respectively, play like both guards and power forwards, depending on the situation. Hill feels their ability to dribble the ball like a point guard, even though they tower over the prototypical guard, is a key reason for their immense success in the league.

“I think having more than one dimension to your offensive game and defensive game — being able to guard different positions — will set you aside,” Hill said.

With multiple guards on the roster, Arizona doesn’t need Hill to control the offense from the forward position like James.

“You don’t want to make yourself a one-way playing guy,” Hill said. “If I’m in high school and I’m still 6-6 and I’m playing like I’m supposed to be 7-foot and it doesn’t work out for me, then you’re kind of in a bad situation. But I think the ability to dribble really took me to the next level, especially in high school.”

In high school, Hill played point guard, and while he wasn’t a 7-footer, he was still the tallest player on his team. He said the mismatch created matchup nightmare for other teams.

The experience handling the ball also gave him confidence to play down low last season at power forward, as he felt comfortable with the ball even though he had the size disadvantage.

Growing up, Hill watched the AND1 street mixtapes and wanted to emulate guards like Philip Champion, affectionately known as Hot Sauce, a master at crossing players over and getting past defenders.

“When you’re little and you see Hot Sauce at like 5-foot-10 dribbling the way he does, you want to go out and do that no matter how tall you are,” Hill said. “You don’t want the guy getting the ball ripped from you in games and the guy who can’t be counted on at the end of games.”

But even if dribbling isn’t a unique trait to focus on, Hill said it’s crucial for players to be able to something extra on the court. More conventional big men, like Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge, don’t have close to the same ball-handling ability as a guard, but their touch from outside adds a dangerous weapon to their arsenal.

“I love to attack the rim,” Hill said. “Being a guy that couldn’t really shoot as well growing up; my ability to dribble was everything. If I couldn’t dribble, how was I supposed to lay the ball up past this guy? So making up for a bad area was always about dribbling.”

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