How will Illini senior Malcolm Hill be remembered?

Malcolm Hill is one of the most productive individual players in Illinois history, but the Illini have yet to find team success entering the final few weeks of Hill's career. How will he be remembered? Illini Inquirer asked many around the program.

Malcolm Hill enters his final home game at Illinois as the No. 5 scorer in Illinois history (1,737 points), just 12 points away from passing No. 4 Brian Cook and 76 points shy of passing No. 3 Dee Brown

By the end of this season, Hill will finish his career top-three in free throws made, top-20 in three-point field goals made, top-20 in career rebounds, top-12 in career starts, top-10 in games played and top-10 in minutes played in an Illinois jersey.

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The Belleville, Ill., native is the only player from the six major conferences to currently lead his team in total points, total rebounds, total assists and total steals this season.

The 6-foot-6 silky-smooth-yet-tough wing is just the third Illini -- along with Cook and Illini career scoring leader Deon Thomas -- to reach milestones of 1,700 career points and 600 career rebounds.

Those are the numbers of an all-time great.

But if Hill doesn't lead Illinois to enough wins over the next two weeks -- Illinois likely needs to win at least its next three (home vs. Michigan State, at Rutgers and its first Big Ten Tournament game) to have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament -- Hill will be one of the few great Illinois basketball players of the modern era not to play a single NCAA Tournament game.

Hill has acknowledged several times this season -- including Tuesday -- that he does not want that to be his legacy at Illinois. The All-Big Ten candidate certainly has done his part to keep Illinois from failing to make its fourth straight Big Dance, averaging 17.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals.

But March matters to a legacy -- a lot. And if Illinois fails to make the field of 68, the March Madness absence certainly will be one of the first thoughts -- fair or not. -- when fans reminisce about Hill's career.

So what will be the legacy of Malcolm Hill?

We asked several people around the program -- teammates, staff members and media members -- how we should remember Malcolm Hill.

Maverick Morgan is a senior center for Illinois and came to Illinois in the summer of 2013 in the same recruiting class as Hill: "Me personally, I'll always remember his development. Coming into school the summer of our freshmen year, he's 17. I'm 18 at the time. We're roommates and just seeing how quiet (he was) and how he's changed and how he is now and how we're closer. I'm a little biased. That's how I kind of picture it. But obviously on the court, his body's changed, his mindset's changed, everything."

Dustin Ford has been an Illini assistant basketball coach for all four years of Hill's career: "With Malcolm, the most I would say is being an everyday guy. He's a guy that ever since he stepped foot on campus, he worked out hard. He's one of the first guys in the gym. He's one of the last guys to leave. He's a guy who's grown up a lot since the first day he showed up on campus. He's always had the work ethic, but he's grown in a lot of areas in terms of his game mentally and off the court in some areas that have been fun to watch."

James Haring is in his first season as Illinois director of basketball operations and spent the previous two seasons as an Illinois graduate manager: "How I'm going to remember Malcolm and something that probably a lot of people don't know outside the program is that this guy was always in the gym. I mean, like, always in the gym. I mean, when I first got here June 1st, 2014, and I moved to Champaign. I have no friends. I don't know anybody. All I know is where the basketball office is and the grocery store, and that's it. And I'd be going back to the office at 10 (p.m.), 11, midnight, 1 (a.m.) to do my own workout, to do work stuff and just sit around and have a couch to sit on, and that kid was always in the gym. He was on the gun. He was working out on his own or grabbed a couple managers to help rebound. He was always trying to get better because that's really what he loved to do, whether it was shooting, passing or dribbling, his long-post game, off-the-bounce game, speed. Whatever it was, he was always trying to get better. He loves the game and being in the gym. ...And he's still in the gym. He always is. There's times I get back, go back to the office at 11 o'clock at night and he's in there just shooting and doing his thing, music playing. I'll always remember Hill as that kid at Ubben just as much, if not more, than me."

Adam Fletcher joined the Illinois basketball staff in August 2015 as the strength and conditioning coach: "To me, he's just a guy who puts his head down and work, you know? He never says much. He just kind of goes about his business and works really hard. I think his intrinsic motivation is what makes him special, his ability to work without, I guess, outside motivation. He just kind of does it, and you never have to push him. He just goes. He just works hard all the time. He's just got a special work ethic that never, from what I see, he never takes a rep off or a practice off. He never asks for time off. He's just a great lead-by-example guy.

"He's certainly a max-out guy. He's a guy that just gets every ounce of potential that he has and he maxes it out. That what makes him the player that he is. That what makes him the person that he is. He was instrumental in kind of setting a culture in the weight room as an example guy, for guys to see where they can go, how hard they can work. And he never says anything. I never have to jump him. He just works. He doesn't ask questions. Whatever I tell him to do, he does it. And he does it to his fullest potential."

Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald and Review has covered Illinois for almost three decades: "I would remember him as one of my three favorite student-athletes to ever come to the University of Illinois. I think he is absolutely a gem of a representative of the university. He's done everything you could ask a kid to do, starting with playing to the best of your potential. This is not an explosive athlete. There are limitations to what he can physically do. He has worked his tail off and improved every year. There is no task that he has not taken on. When you've been in trouble at this position or that position, he's dove in. He's tried to play center. He's tried to play point guard. Has he played those things perfectly? Probably not. But he gave you every kind of effort you could want. He's been good academically. He's been great socially. He's been a low-maintenance kid. You haven't had to worry about him out in the community. He's been great in the community, in fact. He's been terrific working with the media. He gives you an honest answer. I will hold him in high regard. Has there been better basketball players come through here? Yes. But I look at him, I look at someone like Nathan Scheelhaase and I look at kids that tried so hard and did everything they could to be the best that they could and walk away and ought to hold their heads high. I think he's in a small group of kids."

Derrick Burson is in his 18th year in the Illinois athletics communication department and has served as an Illinois basketball media liaison since 2000: "One of the most genuine, sincere, honest, awesome student-athletes we've ever had. He's in the whatever list you want to make -- top-3, -5, -10, whatever -- he's on it. He's unbelievably easy to work with. Genuine is the word, and you know that, since you've covered him for four years. He's the exact same person to everybody, whether they're a big name, a little name or a no name. He treats everybody the same. He never says 'no' to anything. He always is accommodating and generous with his time and sincere and honest. You can't ask for anything more.

"I think part of it is because Malcolm doesn't think he's a star. I still don't think he has any clue how he is revered and thought of. I think it can be a challenge or hard on young people because they see and read everything. I think about a college player 30 years ago, if they didn't buy the newspaper, maybe they didn't hear or read or see everything. This stuff is in their timeline. You know that. Every day, every hour, every minute. To be able to handle that and not change or not let it affect you in any direction, it's a rare thing. I don't think it's ever affected him or gotten to him. He's stayed who he is. He's genuine. Again, that's the word I would use for Malcolm: genuine."

Sean Harrington is a former Illinois basketball player and currently an ESPN college basketball analyst: "He should be remembered as an Illini great. On the individual side, he's had to do everything for this team, whether it's point guard, center, whether it's shoot threes, whether it's defend. He's done it all. He's been the scoring option in late-game situations. He's carried this team scoring wise. More importantly, he's a terrific kid. I think that's what you're proud of as an Illinois alum. I think if you follow this team, you want guys like that in your program that not only excel on the court but there are no issues off the court and are really nice people to interact with and be around. That's what he is. The flipside for him is it's a team sport. You are going to look at what these four years were, and if they don't make the NCAA Tournament this year, he will be lumped in with that group and whether he finishes fourth, fifth, third, whatever it is on the scoring (list), he will maybe have a little bit of that knock of, 'Well, yeah, but they didn't win while he was there.' Deon Thomas maybe was the better player because they won. Brian Cook was the better player because they won. Dee Brown was the better player because they won. That's what it is. It's individual awards along with what your team does. It's a combination of the two. There's nothing more he can do. He can't worry about it. People are going to say what they want. But they should definitely look at what he was which was a terrific talent and a terrific kid off the court."

Deon Thomas is the all-time leading scorer at Illinois, the Illini Radio Network analyst and a Big Ten Network studio analyst: "I tell you what, if people remember him for (never making the NCAA Tournament), then they have sorely missed the boat, and they would've sorely missed what a, one, tremendous young man he is; two, his work ethic and what he has become. He has done nothing but improve over the last four years to become one of the best players in the Big Ten, and not just in the Big Ten but one of the best players in the country. Malcolm's not the greatest of athletes. He's not this high flyer that does all these things, but what this young man has grown to be, he has a very high basketball IQ. He understood his limitations. So what did he do? He went out and developed that mid-range game. I love his pull-up and step-back jump shot that you really don't see a lot of young players to do today. That takes a lot of work. That takes a lot of dedication. That takes a lot of grind. So if you say what I will remember him as, this is a young man that has persevered through a tough time in our basketball history. It's not on him. He has done nothing but everything that has been asked of him by the university and by his coaching staff. He goes out and handles his business in the classroom. In four years, I have not heard one negative thing about him off the court. So, how could you not remember him in that regard fondly? Because it's not all about basketball, fortunately. I think what people get wrapped up in is these guys are athletes -- basketball, football, baseball or any other sport -- and they forget we are people. When this young man is in his dorm room or on the road or in the classroom doing his work, there are other students on campus who are doing crazy things. When you're an athlete, that spotlight just shines a whole lot brighter. So the smallest thing you do is magnified by ten. I've never heard anything negative about this young man. I hope that's what people remembered. I hope they remember how hard he's worked and not look at the end results because it's not his fault."


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