Honing his skills

Donn Hill Jr. was annoyed when his parents insisted he play JV instead of varsity last year -- but the apprenticeship has paid off


January 14, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to the Sun

As a freshman, Bel Air's Donn Hill Jr. showed the skills to be a point guard. He wasn't afraid to drive to the basket, knew how to run a fast break and could hit midrange jump shots.

Bel Air coach Nate Weigl envisioned him as a role player, someone who could help the team off the bench and maybe play 10 minutes a game.

Hill liked the idea, but his parents did not. They wanted him to play on the junior varsity because he'd get regular playing time.

Weigl was surprised when the freshman told him what his parents wanted, but he let Hill stay with the JV. Not surprisingly, he was a standout.

Everyone was in agreement where Hill would play this season. Having made a smooth transition to varsity, he is Bel Air's leading scorer, at 15.8 points per game, and one of the county's top guards.

Looking back on their decision, Hill's parents said they were considering their son's long-term development when insisting he play JV.

"He probably wouldn't have gotten as much playing time as he wanted," his father, Donn Hill Sr. said. "On JV, he could play and better his skills. He definitely needed the playing time to develop."

Hill said he wasn't thrilled with his parents' wishes - at least not at first. He had played a lot of Amateur Athletic Union ball and thought he was ready for varsity.

"I was a little upset," Hill said. "But around [the fifth game], I realized they were right. My parents kept telling me that I was improving, and I felt in my mind that I was improving, too."

Weigl said he understood and appreciated the input of Hill's parents.

"On the JV team, he was the best player on the team," Weigl said. "I guess he realized that playing with JV, he could be best player on the floor, and he was, every single game. I can't remember a game where he wasn't the best player on the floor for Bel Air or the opposing team."

Hill averaged nearly 20 points per game and often dominated play.

He's finding similar success this season against tougher competition. In addition to leading Bel Air (5-7) in scoring, he is among the county's top 10 scorers. He also is among of the team leaders in rebounds (5.0), assists (2.5) and three-point accuracy (49 percent).

Hill, who moved around frequently when he was younger because his father is in the Army, began playing basketball at age 5 while his family was living in Bamberg, Germany.

Later, while living in Texas, Hill was one of the top scorers on his middle school team, which went undefeated for two years. He and his family moved to Bel Air when Hill was in the eighth grade.

Although Weigl told Hill he'd be a starter during preseason, the sophomore was worried about being a scorer on a team filled with juniors and seniors.

Weigl spoke with Hill before the second game and told him not to be concerned about how the older players might react.

"I told him that, as a team, we needed him to put points on the board," Weigl said. "That was his job."

Hill went out and led the team with 18 points in a victory over North Harford in the next game. Hill, 6-foot-1 and 150 pounds, loves to drive to the basket and is aggressive in going for rebounds and playing defense.

Senior forward Kevin Dezell said that Hill doesn't play or act like a sophomore.

"He is a leader on the court, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to help us win, whether it be scoring 20 every night or making a tremendous pass or pulling down rebounds," Dezell said. "To see this out of a sophomore has definitely been a pleasant surprise, but his great character has helped our team out more than anything he has contributed on the court. It would be hard to imagine our team without Donn this season."

Hill said that playing JV helped him prepare for varsity.

"I'm glad they did it," Hill said of his parents. "I've thanked them for it. I see it was the right decision, and it helped me get better."

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