Arizona Week: In Praise of Solomon HillPosted by AMurawa on June 28th, 2012
For one reason or another and you may not have noticed it, but last year Solomon Hill was really, really good. Maybe it was because the Pac-12 was way down and at times unwatchable. Maybe it was because his Wildcats finished in an unusual position, watching instead of participating in the NCAA Tournament. But for whatever reason, Hill’s performance as a junior got swept under the rug. A closer look shows that Hill wound up as the first Wildcat since Andre Iguodala in 2003-04 to lead his team in both assists and rebounds in a season. Better yet, he’s the first ‘Cat since Luke Walton in 2001-02 to pull off that two-fer while also finishing in the top two on the team in scoring. And, in case you forgot, Iguodala and Walton were both very special college basketball players.
Now, certainly Hill has a ways to go before he can quite measure up to either of those great Wildcats. After all, while Hill led his team with a mere 2.6 assists per game last season, Walton notched 6.3 assists and Iguodala 4.9 per night. But Hill’s numbers more than compare to either of those future NBA players in other areas. Check out our handy-dandy chart below.
Aside from the above numbers, we’ve also got to give Walton credit for being a part of at least a Sweet Sixteen team, while Iguodala’s club bowed out in the first round and Hill’s suffered an ignominious first-round NIT loss. But looking at the above numbers alone, Hill’s at least in the ballpark with the other two. Taking a look at some more advanced stats (that I’m not even going to pretend I know how to calculate – h/t to sportsreference.com for the numbers), Hill’s 5.6 Win Shares last year dwarf the totals for the other two.
All of which gets to the point that began this post. While Iguodala and Walton went down as pretty special college players, Hill is more or less a complete afterthought. At the end of last season, Draft Express rated Hill as the 62nd best NBA prospect out of last year’s junior class. And yet, to people who watched him blow up for 28 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-10 shooting from the field (with a couple threes mixed in there) as he almost singlehandedly kept UA in the game against Washington in late January, Hill is among the best players in the Pac-12 conference. Or maybe it was his 16 points, 14 boards, and three dimes as he outplayed Colorado’s Andre Roberson in a 14-point win that turned the light on. It could have been his 25 and 12 against UCLA in the conference tournament, when he used and abused any defender the Bruins threw at him on his way to the line 14 times (making 12) in the game. Maybe it was his turn as point forward against Washington State when he repeatedly set up shooters like Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender, notching five assists to go with his 11 points. All told, Hill scored in double figures in 17 of 21 conference games (including Pac-12 Tourney games), notched nine conference double-doubles and displayed a toughness on both ends of the floor that provides a good example for his younger teammates.
To be sure, there are still certain holes that Hill needs to fill in his game. He could certainly stand to cut down his turnovers on over 20% of all possessions (a number that has dropped in each of his three seasons). And there are times when he is too unselfish for his own good. But with four seniors gone from last season and a host of new players now on campus, Hill is in a prime position to become a strong leader in the locker room for the ‘Cats. While the presence of plenty of new toys for Sean Miller’s coaching staff to play around with may force Hill into a slightly different role as a senior, perhaps also limiting some of his touches, if he can continue to be a versatile force, Hill could find a surprising spot for himself in the NBA following next season.