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It’s ‘Showtime’ at St. John’s:

The nickname was born on the asphalt school yard at IS 59 in Springfield Gardens and ever since, from high school gyms through the city to the summer basketball circuit, Daryll Hill has shown why he is called, “Showtime.”

And St. John’s fans and Big East foes will soon learn why too, as the flashy guard from South Jamaica signed a national letter of intent May 1, to play for the Red Storm.

Playing at Madison Square Garden, where Hill won a PSAL championship with Cardozo High School in 1999, and being close to his family are the main reasons Hill, who is finishing a year at Milford Academy in Connecticut, chose St. John's over Hofstra and Providence.

“I wanted to play at the Garden, that’s my home court and the players [at St. John’s] are good and can only make me better,” said Hill, who visited Hofstra last week and was scheduled to visit Providence next week. “I’ve always wanted to be able to play in front of my friends and family.”

The 6-foot guard averaged 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Milford Academy, where he is still trying to get the qualifying SAT score. Hill took the test for a third time Saturday. But even if he doesn’t get the score, Naclerio says Hill will still attend St. John’s as a partial qualifier, which would allow him to practice but not play in games for the Red Storm.

“I’m glad [the recruiting process] is over so now I can fully concentrate on my schoolwork and getting my SAT score,” Hill said. “I have a tutor now and I’m really confident I'll get the score.”

Along with McDonald’s All-American Elijah Ingram, a point guard out of St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, N.J., senior shooting guard Marcus Hatten, an All-Big East selection and Hill, St. John’s should have one of the quickest backcourts in the conference.

“His family is really happy,” Naclerio said. “He could go to a school where he could get the ball right away, but he wanted to play against some big-time schools. And practicing against Elijah and Marcus, he’ll just get better and better. He could be the next Speedy Claxton.”

Hill said he was always interested in St. John’s, but didn’t start getting noticed by the Red Storm coaching staff until his senior season at Cardozo, where he averaged 27 points, seven assists and six rebounds per game.

He also became the first player in Cardozo history to score 50 points in a game, which he did against Francis Lewis, and he also had four consecutive 40-plus point games for the Judges, Naclerio said.

Despite those gaudy numbers, many around the country still didn’t know about Hill because he never played national AAU basketball, instead opting to play locally with for Billy Medley’s Jamaica Youth Organization.

After consulting with former Cardozo teammate and close friend Royal Ivey, a standout at the University of Texas, Hill decided to go to prep school instead of going to college straight out of Cardozo.

Hill saw how an extra year helped Ivey, who was recruited only by a handful of mid-major Division I programs after his senior year at Cardozo, but had major Division I programs interested after a year at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J.

Hill also decided to spend last summer playing for Gary Charles’ Long Island Panthers, where he played with former Newtown standout Charlie Villanueva, Villanova-bound forwards Jason Fraser and Curtis Sumpter and shooting guard Taquan Dean, who is heading to Louisville.

The decision paid major dividends for Hill, who had a breakout performance at the Adidas Big Time tournament in Las Vegas, Nev. After that, Providence, Seton Hall, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Fresno State all came knocking on Hill's door.

“He’s got a ‘Skip to my Lou,’ handle,” said Naclerio, referring to the nickname of another former Cardozo standout, Rafer Alston now with the Milwaukee Bucks. “And he’s a tremendous finisher. He goes to the hole and finishes with both hands and his jump shot has gotten significantly better.”

After leading the Panthers to the Big Time championship, Hill verbally committed to West Virginia University, but later rescinded when there were rumors about Gale Catlett’s retirement. After 24 years at the helm, Catlett retired in February.

“I spoke with Naclerio and I didn’t know how long [Catlett] was going to stay and I didn’t want to play for a different coach, so I changed my mind,” Hill said.

Hill is the second recruit the Red Storm locked up last week as 6-foot-7 Grady Reynolds verbally committed after his campus visit last weekend. Reynolds averaged 17 points and nine rebounds for Southern Union Junior College in Wadley, Ala.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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