With just one proven point guard on his roster, Thad Matta has been looking for ways to add backcourt depth for the upcoming season. Doing so would require walking a delicate tightrope: finding a player who could come in, hold down the point for 15, 20 minutes a game and not make any future verbal commitments feel threatened.
Mission accomplished, apparently.
Midland (Texas) community college point guard P.J. Hill has reportedly decided to join the Buckeyes for the 2007-08 season.
Senior Jamar Butler is the lone returning point guard after freshman Mike Conley Jr. opted to head to the NBA and was selected with the fourth pick in the draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. The Buckeyes have four-star point guard Anthony “Noopy” Crater verbally committed for the 2008-09 season, so recruiting a player who would not make Crater reconsider his commitment but could also contribute solid minutes for the Buckeyes was key.
“I think he’ll be able to help them, just as long as he plays within himself and doesn’t try to penetrate too deep,” said Jerry Mullen, who hosted a camp last week at Oral Roberts that saw Hill participate. “And he’s got real good leadership qualities. Good toughness and leadership.”
A graduate of Minneapolis North, Hill received Division-I interest from just one school – the University of Denver – before opting to go the JUCO route.
“He wound up in Texas because coming out of high school he qualified grade-wise, everything was fine but he didn’t find the Division-I scholarship that he wanted so he decided to take the junior college route to see if he could gain something from that and it looks like he has that opportunity in front of him,” said Antwan Harris, who coached Hill during his junior season when he played for the Howard Pulley Panthers.
While playing for Midland, Hill averaged 6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game – numbers that do not immediately jump off the stat sheet. According to Harris, it is what Hill does that does not show up on the stat sheet that makes him a good player.
“He’s going to do whatever you want him to do,” he said. “That’s the biggest piece about him. You won’t see a whole lot on his stat sheets now. You won’t see that, but you’ll see little things in his game that will help you win a game, that will help you win a conference. That’s the kind of player he is.”
Hill was one part of a Midland team that completed a 7-0 postseason run with a 94-75 victory over Marianna (Fla.) Chipola College in the national championship game, capturing the school’s second NJCAA national title.
He also split playing time at the point with classmate Tyrone Appleton, who also spent time at the shooting guard slot.
Last week, Hill took part in a camp at Oral Roberts that saw the country’s top 120 JUCO players take the floor. While there, he reportedly demonstrated a greater maturity than he had shown during his prep years.
Jerry Mullen, who organized the camp, praised Hill for his “leadership and high energy.”
“I mean (he’s) vocal, very vocal,” he said. “He gets people where they belong. He’s got a lot of energy. Very enthusiastic.”
Hill is listed as 6-2, 165 pounds by Midland’s Web site, but Harris described him as being closer to “5-10, 5-11.” That would put him a bit small to be a go-to point guard in the Big Ten, but Mullen expressed confidence that he could succeed at the next level.
“He’s got really good quickness and toughness,” he said. “He’s quick and tough. As long as he doesn’t try to do too much and get too deep in the lane he’ll be fine. He’s tough enough to be able to be a guard, even though he’s smaller. He’ll be able to help them.”
While playing for Harris, Hill was reportedly a streaky shooter – a facet of his game he appears to have improved on in the past year. Harris said the point guard had played in a pro-am back in Minnesota a few weeks ago and demonstrated a more confident shooting stroke, describing it as “more fluid.”
His jumper, along with his size, helped keep him from being offered by Division-I schools, Harris said.
“I think it was that with the combination of him really needing to work on his jump shot and work on those skills of, ‘I need to be a true point guard,’ ” Harris said. “A lot of kids nowadays, ‘I’m a point guard but I also look to score 30 points’ and he had some of that in his game in high school but from watching him in the pro-am and watching game film from him down in Texas, he’s changed a lot. It took some maturity for that.”
Now it will be time for Hill to get started in Columbus. He is expected to enroll next week and will quickly get thrown into the fire. Fans expecting the same production out of Hill that the Buckeyes got from Conley should start expecting something else, Mullen said.
“He’s not going to be what they’ve had there at that position as far as a scoring point,” Mullen said. “He’s a different type of player, but he’ll be fine.”