Hill wants to leave a legacy at Illinois


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Malcolm Hill throws down a two-handed dunk during the game against Rutgers at the State Farm Center on February 17. The Illini won 82-66.

By Lucas Wright, Staff writer

He’s already 27th on Illinois basketball’s all-time scoring list, and a repeat of last season’s 600-plus point performance could cement him in the top-five all time.

It’s safe to say Malcolm Hill is the leader of this Illini team, but his senior season will determine what his legacy will be.

“Malcolm’s been through a lot and he’s kind of seen it all, and he’s at the point now where he wants to do something special as a team,” head coach John Groce said. “He’s done a lot of individual things, and we talked a lot about legacy, and I think those things matter to him.”

Hill has definitely been taking the right steps toward having a special senior season, centering on an outrageous offseason workout program with strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher.

Over the course of the offseason, Hill added five inches to his vertical jump, 60 pounds to his bench press and over 120 pounds to his squat.

Hill’s improved physique flashed to the public in May when he broke a backboard in practice.

He then put his hops on display in the first exhibition game of the year with a dunk against Washington University that resulted in a technical foul for swinging on the rim.

The foundation for his final season is there, having built his body up to a point it has never been at before, and Groce said he has honed in on a few skills this season too.

“We really worked on shot prep for him, catch and shot, and we worked on athleticism,” Groce said. “To say he took those things to another level would be an understatement. “

While Hill is in top shape and poised to build on his already historic Illini career, this year’s outcome will rest heavily on his supporting cast.

In the 2015-16 season Hill relied heavily on teammate Kendrick Nunn to help him in the scoring department. The two combined for just under 50 percent of the team’s points last season.

Without Nunn this season, the pressure would seem to be on Hill, but his teammates are also ready to take on more offensive responsibility.

A healthy Mike Thorne Jr. and improved play from Maverick Morgan have bolstered the Illini attack in the paint, and coupled with Leron Black and Michael Finke, this will give Hill the ability to play more on the perimeter, as opposed to playing the post like most of last season

“I think we have the pieces to be a really good basketball team,” Hill said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a relief, but I think it’s pretty cool I can play my natural position now.”

On a team loaded with six seniors and graduate students, the experience is there for the Illini to make a strong showing in the Big Ten season.

But for Hill and Illinois, the next step is performing to expectations and making the NCAA tournament, which the Illini haven’t made since the 2012-13 season.

Hill hasn’t experienced a postseason tournament besides the NIT in his time at Illinois.

For Hill, this is his last shot at securing a legacy for himself at Illinois.

“This goes back to my childhood,” Hill said. “I just want to be remembered for something. For a kid like me, I wasn’t always good at basketball. People didn’t really, you know, respect me as much as a basketball player, or as much as a person either when I was really young. Just being remembered for the things we can accomplish here as a team and individually; I’d love that to be part of my legacy.”

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