Illini head coach John Groce says Hill's effort and understanding on defense has been, "unusual" for a first-year player.
"With what he's doing defensively he's certainly earned my trust," Groce said. "As I watch him, I mean, he's not perfect but he plays really hard, he understands the rotations, he does a lot of the little defensive fundamentals abnormally well for a freshman, so those things are good."
Groce's comments were made after Hill's best offensive game. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Belleville, Ill. native scored a career-high 10 points and had four rebounds in 19 minutes of action. For a player that scored 2,067 points in high school, finding his niche on the offensive end has been harder to come by at the college level. He's shooting 29 percent from the floor and has missed 11 of his 14 3-point tries.
Groce says Tuesday's performance may be a sign of progression in that area for his youngest player on the roster.
"We've been working with him and encouraging him and continue telling him to be aggressively patient," Groce said. "Trying to find that balance I think can sometimes be difficult. I think that you'll find he's much more closer than he was certainly a week or two ago."
The offense may be an ongoing learning curve. That's not a concern, at least for the time being. Hill's attitude and willingness to give the sufficient effort on defense, all while learning a new position at the 4, is a good indicator of the player he'll become down the road.
"That's one thing I really wanted to focus on because I wasn't really too strong on the defensive end in high school," Hill said. "I wanted to prepare myself in college, and I think I'm doing a good job so far."