Hill Looks To Get Offensive

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In his first two seasons at Arkansas, 7-footer Steven Hill didn't think when he touched the ball. His decision, in most cases, already had been made.

"For a long time, my first instinct has been to look to pass," Hill said. "This year, that's going to change."

The tallest participant throughout the 2007 Southeastern Conference Basketball Media Days said Thursday that he dedicated most of his summer to improving his offense. Despite averaging just 1.4 points per game as a freshman and 3.5 as a sophomore, Hill has had an impact on many Arkansas victories. But his main contributions came on defense — Hill set the school's sophomore record for blocked shots in a season with 91.

So, at the conclusion of last season, Hill and Arkansas coach Stan Heath sat down for a brief discussion. And sure, Heath wanted Hill to tinker with his physical offensive skills. Most importantly, though, Heath convinced Hill to get more aggressive in his junior season — starting in summer pickup games.

"It's the attitude that needed to change more than anything," Heath said. "He's got the ability to score. But he's got to believe in that ability."

Hill gained confidence through repetitions. He repeated a daily routine of shooting drills in Bud Walton Arena, talking team managers into shagging balls for him. Hill then participated in pickup games, trying out the shots he had just practiced. His shots of choice this summer were hooks. He worked on his right-handed hook with great determination, mimicking the exact form he uses on his natural left-handed hook. Now, a defender has to watch out for Hill turning to either side.

"If I can get those shots falling," Hill said, "I'll be pretty tough to guard."

He already has become a handful for Arkansas' other post players to handle.

"It was scary watching him in practice (Tuesday)," Heath said. "He was just dominating every aspect in the paint, offensively and defensively."

Junior forward Charles Thomas recalled the domination.

"He was hitting shots, he was getting position, he was getting rebounds and he was blocking shots," Thomas said.

Heath said Hill's offensive improvement would surface not only in his shooting. Hill also spent up to 15 hours a week this summer in the weight room, increasing strength and mobility. Now, in practices, Hill calls for the ball when in the post. He craves moments when he can take his defender in a one-on-one situation. He loves moving defenders, boxing out with power and dunking with authority.

Heath, after Hill powered his way to some layups in practice, had to calm his center down.

"I was like, ‘Steven, you know, you've got to be beating up other guys. You can't be beating the guys on our team,'" Heath said.

Hill chuckled at that comment, proud of his offensive progress, realizing its meaning. Now, he just needs to show that advancement when he throws on a cardinal or white Arkansas game jersey.

"I'm hoping that I can surprise a lot of people this year," Hill said. "I've worked hard on it, and I hope the way I play shows it."

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