The April evaluation period may have faded past the horizon in your rearview mirror, but the basketball is still hot and heavy on the AAU and camp circuit. Two weeks ago Lawrence Hill traveled across the country to North Carolina for the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions with his team, and then a week later he was scheduled to partake in the Pangos All-American Camp in Southern California. He dazzled in the former and disappeared for the latter. With plenty of news, let's get you updated on all of Law's latest...
Hill and the Arizona Magic were of course paired up with the Illinois Wolves in the first game of the four-team pool play at the Gibbons TOC, but the seven-point loss to Bobby Frasor's squad would be a temporary hurdle for Hill on Friday night. He and the Magic bounced back for a pair of big wins on Saturday against the Delaware Sharpshooters and the Colorado Pump N Run by 21 and 16 points, respectively. The Delaware squad could have been routed by a larger score, but a "mercy rule" kicked in when the Magic pushed their margin past 20 points inside the final four minutes of play. The importance of noting the final scoring margins in all these games: the Magic won their pool by way of a tiebreaker by three points. Unfortunately, Hill's team squandered their prime position in the elimination bracket play that started that night when they were trounced by the Dallas Mustangs. Ironically, they were on the other side of the mercy rule when the game was called at 20 points with 1:30 left on the clock.
"They actually played harder than us," says father Larry Hill of the sad showing by the top team from the Grand Canyon State.
His son averaged better than 17 points, eight rebounds and two and a half blocks per game in the quartet of contests. He scored 14 points in the opening loss to the Wolves, 25 points against the Sharpshooters, just six against the Colorado Pumps and 24 in the closing loss to the Mustangs. The game that may jump out and concern you is the six-point performance against an unimpressive Colorado team. In that game, Hill was hit with early fouls and never achieved any offensive flow. He shot 3-of-9 from the field for the game, but he adjusted his focus appropriately.
"Lawrence wasn't really making his shots, but he was setting picks and moving the ball around well," says his father, who also keeps a box score for all Arizona Magic games. "Kaleo Kina had 25 points, Joey Shaw had 17 and Darren Jordan had 13. Lawrence isn't a ball-hog. Other guys were hot and he made sure he helped their offense in the ways he could. Now, in the Delaware game, he made himself an offensive scoring force."
The proud papa is refering to his son's meeting with Eric Boateng, the 6'10" junior standout who is ranked by TheInsiders as the #1 center in the 2005 class. hill and Boateng did not overtly matchup against each other on regular possessions of the Magic-Sharpshooters showdown, but they did collide in several plays in the paint. One of the more memorable series came with Hill taking the ball right at the Delware center, and drawing contact but now whistle from the referees. The ball came loose and bounced toward the nearby corner of the court, for which Hill gave chase. He ran the ball down, ahead of a Delaware wing, and then broke him down with a crossover to head along the baseline back to the basket. There again was Boateng, and Hill again went right at him. This time they had a bigger collision, and Hill held strong to the ball, putting it up and in while drawing the foul.
"I wasn't doing that a couple months ago," said the Glendale (Ariz.) forward of his attacking aggression against a bigger defender under the basket. "I would have shot a floater or stepped back for a jumper. I surprised myself a little."
"He showed a lot of good stuff out there," echoes the recruit's father.
In that closely watched contest, Hill sizzled while Boateng fizzled. The renowned center camped out on the perimeter, prefering to shoot long-range jumpers - in sharp contrast to Hill's low post aggression. It was a statement game. The entire event was a strong statement for Hill as he stakes out his claim as one of the best forwards in America, as well as the West Coast.
That push should have continued this past weekend at Cypress (Calif.) where Hill was to partake in the Pangos All-American Camp, but he missed the three-day individual invitation event with a badly sprained ankle from earlier in the week. The Deer Valley High School rising senior is still unable to walk today, which puts into jeopardy his planned travel in a little over a week to Virginia for the five-day NBA Players Association Camp. That individual event is another invitation, though with much greater prestige and national cachet. It is a putative Top 100 event, and few walk away unimpressed with the competition level and education.
"I really want to go, but not if I am going to play badly," the thoughtful student-athlete muses. "It would be a waste of time, and it could set me back for the rest of summer if I hurt [the ankle] more."
While basketball events, both locally and nationally, cloud his mind, Lawrence Hill and his father are both thinking a good deal about recruiting right now, as well. The father and son have each been quoted as saying that a commitment is 98% to 99% done for Stanford, yet there has been no movement in the more than nearly three weeks since they returned from their official visit to The Farm.
Cardinal fans are excited about the prospect of a Hill commitment, but at the same time their concerns are growing with the deafening silence from the family in Glendale. Not only would the Deer Valley High School forward provide much needed help inside and on the perimeter from a top 100 national recruit, but the commitment would start the proverbial ball rolling for other recruits who might soon commit. The fans are not alone in their mixture of excitement and apprehension - you could forgive the Stanford coaching staff for asking the same question behind closed doors.
What's the hold up?
"I want to give Anthony Goods a call and talk to him about his visit," the younger Hill answers to the consensus question from the Stanford Athletics community. "I just want another opinion. It would be interesting to compare notes."
Goods is not only a fellow 2005 recruit from the Southwest who could be a prospective Stanford teammate with Hill, but the two have held a bond since last fall when they played at an AAU tournament in Ohio. They have kept in touch since, and both have talked openly about their shared discussions on the Cardinal. Goods just took his trip this week, from Sunday night through early Tuesday morning. The timing was admittedly awful for Stanford to show itself well to the SoCal combo guard, given that he was on campus in the heart of spring quarter final exams. The players had scarce time available to spend with the recruit during the day, and the typical social indulgences of the night were completely unavailable with the campus locked into finals. Even the length of the visit was handicapped, falling well short of the NCAA's allowed 48 hours.
There thus is the prospect that Goods could report to Hill a mediocre visit experience. Not only would that be crushing news in Goods' Stanford recruitment, but it also appears as if it could bring collateral damage to the almost-committed Arizona forward. Perhaps his percentage could dip if he does not gather a glowing report from his backcourt buddy.
"It's not a question of if. It's a matter of time," the 6'8" recruit reassures us. "I feel the same way I did when I came back from the visit, but it's doubled down. I wanted to see how I would feel a week or two later, and it hasn't changed at all."
Another important data point, of course, for both Hill and his father are the conversations they have with new Stanford head coach Trent Johnson. The top Card was not yet hired when they came for their May visit, so the only interactions they are able to enjoy with Johnson are over the phone. The first such call took place when they dialed him up hours after he was announced to the Stanford job by way of press conference.
"I asked if he had seen Lawrence play - if he knew what he looked like physically and how he played," says Larry Hill. "He replied, 'Of course I know what Lawrence looks like.' He said he had seen him at the Big Time last summer. He said, 'When a kid has that ability and those grades, we knew we couldn't get him at Nevada. Now that I'm at Stanford, maybe I have a chance.' You do indeed, Coach."
"We had a good conversation," the recruit's father continues. "I'm glad that he has a history with the staff. He's known Tony Fuller for years and coached with Eric Reveno at Stanford. That makes me feel better."
The get-to-know conversations are still continuing between the new Cardinal head coach and the Arizona family. How soon they will reach a satisfactory conclusion, allowing Lawrence Hill to close out that last one percent in his mind for a college commitment - we don't know. But we will continue to keep tabs on the desert dandy and keep you up to date.
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