Men's hoops guide: Solomon Hill ready to be 'the man' for Wildcats
Arizona entered the 2011-12 season desperate for someone to emerge as leader and go-to-guy during crunch time.
Forward Solomon Hill’s was thrust into the alpha dog role because of his talent and experience in the program, and statistically he did just fine.
As a junior, Hill was second on the team in scoring and first in assists and rebounds, earning him first team All-Conference honors.
But the reserved Hill never fully came into his own as the No. 1 option, as Derrick Williams did a year earlier, and a talented Wildcat team missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.
“I was still trying to find my way in certain aspects of the game,” Hill said. “I was still trying to find a jump shot. I think I was an incomplete player.”
At the end of the season, Hill showed more aggression in attacking the hoop and confidence in his outside shooting.
“Our team was faltering,” Hill said. “We [were] low at some points and I had to put that into that boost of confidence for myself to try and get the team going.”
Over the final 15 games, Hill’s improved from 11.4 points per game from to 14.7 in the season, but it wasn’t enough, and the Wildcats’ season ended with a first round exit in the NIT.
Now, Hill will have his last go as Arizona’s senior leader. If Arizona wants to live up to its preseason rankings, Hill will finally have to take over.
“Solomon is as competitive of a kid as I’ve ever been around,” head coach Sean Miller said. “Winning matters to him, every drill matters to him. What that has done is that’s really stoked a fire inside of him to give him an incredible work ethic.”
During the summer, Hill slimmed down for his transition back to small forward and Miller said he’s in the best shape of his life.
“I’m the old guy on the team, that’s how I kind of feel,” Hill said. “Even though I’m 21, you still have that old man feel and in a sense — you know they say you learn from your elders, so my goal is to pass on my experience and my lessons and my teachings to the younger guys. Hopefully they can learn it faster than I can.”
Hill has been described as someone who leads by example. While he might not be the loudest person, he is certainly one of the most hardworking.
“When you see him [Hill] playing hard, you don’t want to not play hard.” senior guard Mark Lyons said. “It’s pointless of him giving that effort, if nobody else gonna do the same.”
Hill molded his leadership mindset from an unlikely source: ex-Washington guard Isaiah Thomas. The 5-foot-9 Thomas led the Huskies to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010, but more notably he beat Hill and the Wildcats in the Pac-10 Championship game with his game-winning three in overtime.
“Looking at guys like Isaiah Thomas, guys who can lead their team, I think I do have to become more verbal,” Hill said. “I think that’s something that I have to work on and it’s something that will stimulate the team as well. But a guy like that, he’s something that you look up to.”
The Arizona team is built upon Hill. He’s been in Miller’s system for all four years, has a four-star pedigree and has been the man at times on the court. Hill might never be the vocal leader that Thomas was for Washington, but with other experienced talkers on the team, a vocal leader may not be what the Wildcats need.
Hill needs to be a constant force on the court, a dependable scorer and defender and, most importantly, someone who can score the winning basket in crunch time.