Daryl Hill sat in front of his locker Monday morning having just finished his first public workout with the St. Johns Red Storm. But the South Jamaica native out of Cardozo High School will not be playing this year. It had to be a bittersweet moment.
Hill failed to get the required test score to become eligible as a freshman at St. Johns, but the former Queens high school standout is making as much a contribution as he possibly can this year. And that means schooling some of his teammates from time to time in the one thing he is allowed to do with the team, which is practice.
Since leaving Cardozo, where he averaged 27 points and seven assists per game, more than a year ago, the player known simply as Showtime averaged 16 points per game at Milford (Conn.), but also made a name for himself on the playgrounds.
This summer he played at the Rucker in Harlem, the most prestigious and well-known of all the summer basketball tournaments, against other urban legends and some NBA players as well, including another former Cardozo star and Rucker legend, Rafer Skip to MLou Alston, currently playing with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA pre-season.
Hill is lightning quick, maybe slightly undersized for the college ranks, but so was Erick Barkley and Allen Iverson. And while most St. Johns supporters wont get to see Hill display his considerable skills until next year, his new teammates are getting more than their share of Hill now.
Having seen a lot of Hill throughout his high school career, I was not shocked when I heard through the grapevine that the under-recruited former Judges star was taking it to McDonalds All-American Elijah Ingram and pre-season All-American Marcus Hatten during some informal workouts prior to the start of the official practice, Oct. 12.
What did surprise me, maybe just a little, is that no one seems to be contradicting those rumors at Alumni Hall.
In fact, head coach Mike Jarvis went so far as to say that the success of this team could depend a lot on how Hill plays in practice.
This team, if were successful, guaranteed I will stand here in March and say a great deal of our success was due to Daryl Hill. Because what Daryl Hill will do for us in practice every day he will make Elijah better, he will make Marcus better, he will make everyone of our guys better.
No one was a bigger champion of Hill than his high school coach, Ron Naclerio, who continued to say his former player would be a big-time talent in the college ranks, something that became clear to me last summer when Hill played in Alstons charity basketball game at Riverbank State Park.
That day, with Alston, Ron Artest, Tim Thomas and countless other playground and college stars on the court, Hill stole the show. He looked like the fastest player on the court that day and played tenacious defense, as always.
If that Daryl Hill is going up against Ingram and Hatten in practice, the two expected starters are getting more than a decent workout.
You can look at Elijah, you can look at Grady [Reynolds], you can look at Timmy Doyle, three very, very good recruits. A fourth recruit that is probably as talented as anybody, as any of those guys is Daryl Hill, Jarvis said. Daryl Hill is incredible, I mean incredible.
Jarvis compared having Hill in on practices this year to his first year with the team, when the club went all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. That team was led by a backcourt of Erick Barkley and Marvis Bootsy Thornton, one of the best backcourt pairings in the history of the storied program.
Ill tell you what Daryl does for us, Jarvis said. Daryl gives us something that we have never had since the first year I was here in the backcourt. My first year here we had Erick Barkley and Bootsy. But then what you had is Chudney Gray and Colin Charles, who were very athletic and able to compete against those guys in practice. Thats why those guys ended up having such great years for us.
Hatten and Ingram had nothing but praise for Hill after Mondays practice.
Hes quick, hes a good defender, Ingram said. Hes the type of player who will make you work hard in practice. We just play hard against each other, make each other better.
As he will with Hatten this year, Ingram will probably share the backcourt duties with Hill next season.
Hes just a real competitor, Hatten said of Hill. He aint going to lay back just cause hes not playing this year. He competes against us every day. He comes out ready to practice hard.
Hill was just soaking it all in Monday, even if it was a little bittersweet.
Its fun working with Marcus Hatten and Elijah, and the big men are getting better, so its good, Hill said, though admitting he was a little bit disappointed he would not suit up for games this season. I was really going to help them.
Im just trying to get better this year, he added. Its just a good experience. I work them out, they work me out and were getting better.
I hope that for Jarvis and Co. the dividends of having Hill start to show before the end of this season. For Hill, he is hoping they stretch much farther than that.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2002 Community News Group
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