Hill Is Heating Up

Stanford fans are plenty excited with the basketball season unfolding in front of them, but many are also occupied with thoughts of what the Cardinal have ahead in their future. With the books just about closed on the 2004 class, attention is peaking with the junior (2005) crop. At the forefront of the forward class is Arizona junior Lawrence Hill, who has some interesting updates to share...

When we last checked in with Lawrence Hill, the big recruiting news for the 6'8" fab forward from Glendale, AZ was the fact that he had a Stanford admissions application in his hands.  He was scheduled to take the SAT in January, and with his GPA plus intellect, it was a good bet he would bring home a solid score to enthuse Mike Montgomery.

The bad news is that Hill came down with pneumonia and has been fighting it since.  That's tough in the thick of your basketball season, but also murder for your first crack at such an important standardized college board test.  We should not be surprised, though, that Hill has beaten the odds once again, landing a 1230 on the test.  He still maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA (his father emailed me, unsolicited, his fall report card) to boot.

"The big thing I'm doing progressing toward college is the Stanford application," the elite Arizona student-athlete adds.  "I'll probably have it done by the end of my third quarter - in March.  My teacher recommendation forms have already been handed out."

Hill is also making great progress in this illness-tainted season, averaging more than 17 points, 12 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.  His Deer Valley High School team is currently 22-3 and have won the Northwest Region title.  The regular season games have concluded, with a tournament starting on Thursday for the top five teams in that region.  Deer Valley will play the winner of the #4 vs #5 play-in game, and then win or lose will play the respective winner or loser of the #2 vs #3 game on Friday.  As the top seed, Hill's school gets to host this event, though it has little to no bearing on the state playoffs to follow.

Despite a nagging illness that has bothered him the last month, Hill was an unquestioned superstar last Tuesday against Mountain Ridge, the #3 team in their region.  He scored 26 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked four shots in a 52-45 win.

"Nobody was taking shots or changing what they were doing to react to the other team," Hill explains.  "Sometimes I look at games and see things; I'm learning when to take a game over.  I try to get everyone on the bandwagon to follow me.  It's pretty ironic, actually - I have to break away from the team to help the team sometimes."

In that game, Hill shot 13 free throws and hit eight.  The rest of his team shot a combined four free throws.  On the season, Hill is shooting more than half of the team's free throws.

With the pneumonia, you would expect this jumping junior to be taking a back seat, but he feels as much urgency as ever for his play.

I've got to keep trying and fighting," he proclaims.  "I'm about to get some antibiotics, and that might help.  But this isn't the time of year I can take a break.  I just have to concentrate harder in games.  Focus is my battle."

To help keep his son focused on the season at hand, Larry Hill runs interference on a number of recruiting tasks and details.  That included a conversation the elder Hill had with UCLA head coach Ben Howland last week, only some time afterward telling Lawrence that he had an offer from the Bruins.

"My dad keeps me out of the loop on some things.  He holds them until he thinks I'm ready," the younger Hill explains.  "I was surprised by the UCLA offer.  Other than letters, I haven't had any contact with anyone there.  All of a sudden, they're coming to get me.  It's weird.  Before I talk to anyone in the [UCLA] organization, I spoke with the head coach.  Others seem bottom-up in my interactions."

The next logical question is if this sudden spike of interest by the Bruins has catapulted them into his upper echelon of schools.  Previously Hill has held Arizona State and Stanford as a top three - does UCLA crack that group now?

"This does not alone pull them all the way up my list," he answers.  "I just know I have another door open to look into.  I haven't looked at campuses, so I can't put any above any others right now."

"The only reason Stanford, Arizona and ASU have been up there is because I have had the most contact with those coaches," Hill continues.  "I feel a lot more personal in my relationship with coaches, which is good.  It's better to know them as friends.  But Arizona has not really shown me anything in the last month or two."

One other interesting recruiting tidbit that Hill brought to my attention is that he is friends with fellow Cardinal recruit Anthony Goods.  I had no idea the two had actually played together in a tournament in Iowa back in October on the Compton Magic AAU squad.  They got to know each other just a little then, and then recently Goods emailed Hill.  They have struck up quite a friendship since.

"We're both talking about Stanford," Hill comments.  "It's been cool, and I'm glad to stay in contact."

Lawrence Hill and his Deer Valley teammates will start the state playoffs after this week's regional tournament, likely as the #9 seed under the new Power Points system, which functions somewhat like the RPI does for college.  After the post-season is concluded, Hill and his family will buckle down to focus more on his recruitment in the spring and summer.  With his posted test score and then-finished Stanford application, a visit to The Farm is probable.

CAT TRACKS' ANALYSIS: Hill's stock keeps rising and one has to wonder if the Cats will see all of these other schools coming into Phoenix and crank up the pressure on Hill. Our guess is that the Cats won't feel the heat and will continue to evaluate the talented forward and go hard after him only if they feel he is the guy they really want.

Hill is a very good player who could have a great summer and move into the elite. The Cats are on him, but aren't going to take a commitment just because he's from in-state.

This story originally ran on TheBootleg.com.

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