Malcolm Hill: "I feel like I can guard anyone – small or big"

Malcolm Hill: "I feel like I can guard anyone – small or big"

Interview

Malcolm Hill: "I feel like I can guard anyone – small or big"

Throughout Malcolm Hill’s four-year stint at Illinois, he did a little bit of everything. He points out that he played every single position at one point or another, and he put up impressive numbers for the Fighting Illini.

As a senior, he averaged 17.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 43.4 percent from the field, 35.5 percent from three-point range and 78.4 percent from the free-throw line. He posted a solid PER (22.3), True Shooting Percentage (.567), Win Shares (5.3), Box Plus/Minus (+9.4) and Offensive Rating (116.6) as well.

Hill finished his collegiate career with the third-most points produced (1,799) in Big Ten history. Among Big Ten players this season, he ranked third in points per game, fourth in Win Shares, sixth in free-throw percentage, ninth in field goal percentage, ninth in rebounds per game and ninth in steals.

Interestingly, Hill is just 21 years old. Not only does that make him the youngest senior in the draft, he’s actually younger than most junior prospects too. To put this into perspective even further, consider this: When the 2017-18 NBA season starts, Hill will be the same age as most sophomore prospects including Donovan Mitchell, Luke Kennard, Tyler Lydon and Jawun Evans among others.

During the draft process, potential is extremely important to teams, which is why it can be difficult for a 23-year-old senior to beat out younger prospects. Hill’s relative youth – coupled with the fact that he played significant minutes in all four of his years at Illinois – could help separate him from the pack of seniors hoping to hear their name called on June 22, 2017.

HoopsHype caught up with Hill to discuss the NBA players whom he studies, his versatile skill set, how he fell in love with basketball, his pre-draft training and much more.

What are some of your strengths? How do you feel you can help an NBA team?

Malcolm Hill: I think I’m a good shooter. I think I’m underrated when it comes to my shooting. I believe my defense is one of my strengths as well. I take a lot of pride in how I play on the defensive end. I also think I can play well without the ball in my hands. That’s something I worked on a lot during my senior season at Illinois, how to be effective without the basketball.

How did your four years at Illinois prepare you for the NBA and this pre-draft process?

MH: I think it prepared me really well, especially because I got playing time in all four years and I basically played all five positions at one point or another. Playing all of those different positions also meant having to guard those positions well, so I got better defensively. Now, I feel like I can guard anyone – smaller guys and bigger guys. I think my time at Illinois helped me become a more versatile player and a better post-up player too.

In your pre-draft workouts, you’ll obviously get the chance to go head-to-head with other prospects in front of NBA executives? How much are you looking forward to this process?

MH: I think it should be a lot of fun. I love competing, and this is a chance to compete against the best players that college basketball has to offer. I think it’s going to be fun, but I know it’ll be a challenge too. I mean, it’s the NBA, so they’re going to put you through the hardest of the hard workouts. I’m ready, though, and it’ll be fun.

I know you’ve been a huge NBA fan your whole life and you watch as many games as possible. When did you first fall in love with basketball?

MH: My dad was a high school basketball coach, so I fell in love with the game at a young age. I’ve been watching basketball since I was born, basically, and I started playing when I was 4 years old. My favorite team was the Lakers growing up and ever since then, I’ve just been really into the NBA. Not only did I love watching games, I really enjoyed watching anything NBA related – highlights, player workouts, move tutorials, all that stuff. It’s like beautiful art.

When I was in high school, I started talking to [NBA trainer] Drew Hanlen a lot. He would tell me that it’s not all about the highlights and what plays make it onto SportsCenter. He said it’s about finding ways to be successful and help your team. Everybody has their own way that they can be successful in the NBA. I love seeing other players’ success and breaking down what they do well. I watch a lot of film and I always have that in mind, studying how each player carved out their niche and became successful.

You mention watching film. Who are some of the players that you study the most and try to model your game after?

MH: I try to learn little things from everybody I watch, but CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, younger Paul Pierce and younger Dwyane Wade are guys I study a lot because of how crafty they are when they’re creating shots. I feel like I have the ability to do some of those moves too. I try to study some of their moves and then work on them by myself, so I can eventually use the moves in games. I also like to watch Khris Middleton and PJ Tucker because they’re really solid on the defensive end and they’re great catch-and-shoot players. Doing those things can make you very successful in the NBA. I’m constantly learning from all of those guys. I’ve definitely picked up a lot of things from watching them.

You’re only 21 years old and you don’t turn 22 until late October, which means you’re young for a guy who played four years of college basketball. Do you think that will help your draft stock?

MH: Yeah, I do. I definitely thank my mom for having me skip second grade. I think it’s an advantage because of a lot of these seniors are a year or two older than me. There are some sophomores in this draft class who are 21 years old too, so I’m the same age as them but with two more years of college experience. I definitely feel like that’s an advantage.

Where are you training and what are some aspects of your game that’s you’re working on?

MH: Right now, I’ve been training with Jeff Pagliocca in Chicago. At some point, I think I’m going to head out to Las Vegas to do a little bit of my training at Impact Basketball with Joe Abunassar. I’m mainly working on my speed, lateral quickness, ballhandling and shooting. I’m also focused on losing weight, and I’ve actually already lost a lot of weight. Those are the main things.

What would it mean to hear your name called on draft night, and what does your family think of all this?

MH: My family will be more excited than me. They’ll be really happy for me because they know how hard I’ve worked for this since I was a kid and how I’ve told people my whole life that I want to play in the NBA. But I know that getting drafted is just the start. Hearing my name called isn’t my final goal; I want to make an impact on the court for that team. Getting drafted just means that the team is interested in me and thinks that I can help their organization. I want to prove them right. I’m ready to work hard and give my all for whichever organization believes in me.

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