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Bosco’s Corner: Long road leads Hill

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“It’s Showtime.”

That’s the answer to the question Cardozo High School varsity basketball coach Ron Naclerio asked me last Thursday. It was about 3:08 p.m., my brain was fried from working on the Internet all day and Naclerio was admittedly a little giddy.

The phone call went something like this.

“Hello,” I said answering my phone.

‘What time is it?” asked Naclerio, whose voice I placed straight away.

“Um, about 3 o’clock,” I said, hearing the start of a joyous laugh on the other end.

“No, it’s Showtime,” he replied.

I could hear his smile over the wire. I could imagine the expression on his face, all lit up and beaming. There was no doubt that the previous 24 hours had been positively exhilarating and rewarding for the longtime hoops coach, who finally helped find a home for one of his favorite players, Daryll “Showtime” Hill.

Hill, a smallish, but exceedingly quick point guard, left the Bayside school a year ago, having spent this scholastic year at Milford Academy in Connecticut. The scuttlebutt around basketball circles had raised Hill’s stock significantly since his departure from Cardozo.

While a senior at the school, I think most people thought Hill was a mid-major prospect, the kind of player who would end up at UMass or Hofstra, but not at a Big East school and certainly not at an elite national power, like Duke or Maryland.

Slowly, but surely, however, the word on Hill started to get out. Yes, he may be undersized, but the kid can defend like nobody’s business and he was lightning quick on both ends of the court.

Not to mention his ability to shoot the jumper and penetrate as well. I know I’m talking him up, but he is a very, very good player, the kind who would have elevated Hofstra to another level, the kind who, if he had gone to a small Division I school, people would be commentating for the next three years what a steal they had found in Hill.

But he was too good to be underrated for so long a time. Had he been academically ready for college after his senior season at Cardozo, it is likely Hill would have ended up at a school like Hofstra. That, obviously, didn’t happened.

Last summer I went to Riverbank State Park in Upper Manhattan to catch another former Cardozo point guard, Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston play in his own charity game, with fellow NBA players and friends Ron Artest, Elton Brand and Tim Thomas, not to mention a few other notables.

One of those players was Hill, who, much to my surprise, fit right in among the taller, stronger and more experienced players. In fact, he was one of the standouts of the affair, showing the ability to get inside against some quality players and a shooting touch from the outside.

All these skills were on display at Cardozo, but Hill was never a huge star, even if he was one of the best in the city. Hill’s junior and senior seasons at the school followed a team that won the city championship, led by the talented trio of Brian Woodward, Ryan Williams and Royal Ivey.

Even though Hill was on that city championship team, it wasn’t his. Hill’s teams never matched that success and, for whatever reason, he never got the same kind of publicity as those players and certainly did not garner the same kind of interest from college recruiters.

Slowly, his reputation started to take hold, however. At first it was Pittsburgh, a Big East school which, while not a perennial conference power, certainly seemed on the rise. But just as quickly those rumors faded away and WestVirginia became his school of choice. And then things got quiet.

Needless to say, I was a bit shocked when Naclerio called me Thursday morning to tell me of Hill’s signing with the Red Storm. The coach could not have been happier. Hill had found a new home and it was in the neighborhood.

And while I am happy for Hill and Naclerio, I don’t know if it was the best decision for either Hill or the school.

Elijah Ingram, a McDonald’s All American from St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, hasn’t locked up the starting point guard spot yet, of course, but many already expect him to be the man to garner most of the time in the backcourt with Marcus Hatten sliding over to his natural position at the two-guard.

Then throw in Willie Shaw, Andre Stanley and Tristan Smith into that mix and there is a glut in the backcourt. Shaw is a two-guard, but at 6-foot-6, might actually play some small forward or be head coach Mike Jarvis’ choice in a three-guard set.

The same can be said of Stanley, who earned playing time as a walk-on last year, beating out Smith, who has a scholarship.

At this point, I see Hill as Ingram’s back-up, but he will have to earn his playing time in practice, something Jarvis is famous for. Hill’s ability to distribute the ball to Hatten and inside threats like Anthony Glover, Eric King and Kyle Cuffe, will only serve him well if he can likewise bust opponents on defense.

St. John’s needs someone to back up Ingram if Smith is not the long-term answer, but that might also create friction. And certainly there were teams, major Division I teams, Hill could have signed with and been guaranteed a starting job.

But Hill chose to stay close to home and play for the team he always wanted to play for. And Naclerio couldn’t be happier.

Time will tell if the marriage works.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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