Solomon Hill: The Next Great Leader of the Pac?Posted by KDanna on November 8th, 2012
With a new season on the horizon, many teams around the conference will be looking to new leaders to fill in the roles of captains’ past. Solomon Hill indirectly made his case at Pac-12 Media Day as perhaps the most mature and confident team leader out of any in the Pac-12. It’s one of the most-used clichés in all of sports, but upperclassman leadership can really provide that extra boost for a team looking to get to the NCAA Tournament or make some sort of postseason push. Can Hill be next in a long line of postseason heroes – sung or unsung – to lead his team to postseason success? With all signs pointing to the affirmative, here’s a look at some of his recent predecessors in the Pac who took their teams to new heights, as well as further explanation of why Hill is such a viable candidate:
- Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver– It was the Hawaiian who wanted so badly to play in the Pac-10 and the Wisconsin native who thought there could be a winning program in Pullman that made this the Washington State Cougars nationally relevant for two years, culminating in a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in their final season at Wazzu. There wasn’t any one thing in particular these guys did that blew anybody’s mind, but overall, they were just solid with no real deficiencies in either of their games. They weren’t really rah-rah guys, either, as they just led by example. Before Low and Weaver arrived on the Palouse, the Cougars hadn’t registered a winning season since 1996 and an NCAA berth since 1994, and the Cougars have not returned to the NCAA Tournament since these two graduated.
- Isaiah Thomas – Washington has defeated a lot of teams in its building (more than anyone else in the history of mankind) thanks in part to its patented team swagger. For three years, Isaiah Thomas was the face of that “U-Dub swag” as the vocal leader and top playmaker for the Huskies, gesturing to the crowd with each big shot he hit. The highlight of his Husky days actually came away from home, as he hit a buzzer-beater to give Washington the last-ever Pac-10 Tournament championship in a thriller over Arizona (it’s also one of Gus Johnson’s best calls).
- Daniel Hackett – He was far from the most gifted player on the 2008-09 USC Trojans squad that featured DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson. For the most part, it was a team that had vastly underachieved entering the Pac-10 Tournament as a No. 6 seed and a 9-9 record in conference play. But thanks largely to Hackett, the Trojans found another gear in the Staples Center, winning three games in three days against higher-seeded teams. Hackett capped off the magical weekend by spearheading a 15-point halftime comeback to knock off Arizona State and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Hackett finished the Pac-10 Tournament championship game with 19 points, including the tying and go-ahead free throws with 42 seconds remaining. He wasn’t the leading scorer for his team in that game (DeRozan was with 25), but he was the quarterback of that Trojan offense.
- Andrew Zimmermann – He wasn’t all that athletic; he wasn’t all that gifted. But what Andrew Zimmermann didn’t have in natural ability he more than made up for in intangibles. “Grizzly Zim,” as he was called by color analyst Marques Johnson, was by far the most vocal guy for the 2011-12 Stanford Cardinal, always talking on defense and the first guy off the bench to congratulate his teammates during timeouts. He led by example as much as he could, taking charges better than anyone in the conference. Josh Owens was the most gifted post player on the team, but the Cardinal will feel the loss of Andrew Zimmermann more for his grit and voice, which played a big role in Stanford’s run to the 2012 NIT Championship.
- Solomon Hill – Truth be told, Andrew Murawa’s M5 on Monday was the impetus for this post. Hill has seen and been through a lot during his time in Tucson and, as such (along with being one of three guys on the roster who has been with Sean Miller since his first year at Arizona), is well-suited to lead a 2012-13 team that faces high expectations with a load of newcomers who are expected to contribute in a big way right away. Listening to Hill speak at Pac-12 Media Day would make anyone a believer that Hill is the right guy to lead the Cats back to the NCAA Tournament. Just read this answer he gave on guiding his younger teammates: “I would say teaching the young guys about sacrifice has been the biggest part of my leadership. The guys are changing from high school to college, and the social life is there, the partying is there, the after-hour spots are there. And I just tell the guys that putting your talents to hard work, being in the gym a little bit longer, trying to get there early, those parties will always be there, your friends will always be there for you to go out, but it’s about where you are at two o’clock in the morning. Just getting guys to understand that you’re part of something bigger than just yourself. You represent your family, you represent the college and you represent your team. Anytime you’re out there, especially with everything, all the social media that’s going on and the phones, you take a quick picture past one o’clock with some alcohol in your hand, you’re misrepresented. [I try to] get the guys to understand that. Just putting in the work now, you can benefit from it later. Just sacrifice.” The maturity oozes out of Solomon Hill, and that is reason enough to believe that the Wildcats won’t disappoint this year. And to think we didn’t even discuss his actual on-court abilities: Starting the last 78 games in which he has played and averaging almost 13 points and eight rebounds last year while also shooting 50 percent from the field as an inside-outside guy… Yeah, he can play.