Tuesdays with the Team: Lawrence Hill

The last time Stanford made it to the Sweet 16? 2000-01, when Maryland wiped the floor with the Cardinal in the Elite Eight. See what Lawrence Hill has to say about getting his team back to the good ‘ole days, getting his shooting back to the good ‘ole days, and Mitch Johnson finding his good ‘ole days have just begun.

On his comfort level after WSU:

No, I don't feel comfortable yet. I feel like it was easier last year, and so I feel a lot more tense when I'm out there, trying to get back to where I was just playing.

On why he's more tense this year:

I don't want to fail. This is the best position we've been in as a team since I've been here and it only gets harder with more and more success. Every year at the banquet, thinking about what we did that year, I always want to hear more. Maybe I'm thinking about how hard the road is. But I'm happy with my defense, I feel like besides scoring, everything's gotten better.

On how his offensive role has changed over the years:

I think it's more trying to do things within the offense, giving myself the ability to score when I want to, when I need to. There were times with Brook out, with Anthony out, when it was a clear-cut time I need to take shot or there was a play called for me, but now I feel five or six times a game I get a chance or a look instead of 10 to 12. They're still there, it's just not as apparent when they're on the court.

Hill mentions that his teammates have more offensive plays called for them, which cuts into his touches. We ask about whether they run plays for him:

We run the same ones now as before. I've been more productive passing, trying to hit Robin and Brook down low, and guys are guarding me a lot harder. I used to be able to come off a screen and dribble cut and then decide catch or shoot. Now, I need to decide if I'm going to shoot it beforehand.

On playing the three versus the four:

I'm more comfortable at the three this year but I've also played the four a lot. Last year I was more comfortable at the four, especially heading into the Virginia game, because I remember being tired in the first 30 seconds instead of the first two minutes because of all cuts you have to make, and defending on the perimeter.

On his fifth foul in the WSU game, bumping Kyle Weaver shooting a three:

I felt at that point in the game, it had to be called, but at other times it wouldn't have been. I never foul shooters on pull-ups. He caught it, pumped, dribbled back, pumped some more. I thought I was going to jump in front of him, to the side, but I remember all he did was hit my calves. You have to jump up and down is the rule. If that happened early in the game, ‘good hustle, good job,' but I need to stand back put a hand up and let Kyle shoot that three.

[Trent Johnson] didn't talk to me about it, he knows I know it was wrong. You can blow it up and say it was one of the biggest plays in the game, but they had lots of opportunities to hit free throws [and] what if we had 10 turnovers instead of 17.

On Johnson's comments to the team about their the top-10 ranking:

He talked to us about it and said we need to be on-point now. I don't want to be No. 9 in country, I want to be higher. No. 1 in the country is the team that wins whole thing. Our goal is to win the Pac-10 and we really need to win all our games to have a shot because UCLA is going to handle their business.

On whether he appreciates it:

We're not trained to think about glory in anything until it's over. 18-3: I never imagined having that record, I've always wanted a 20-win season, being in the top-10 I always wanted, but it's being able to win games that we want to win and should win. We still know two of our three losses were games we should have won if we play at level were supposed to. Siena, we even didn't play our game, we shot so many outside, because that's what they wanted us to do. Feeding Robin wasn't even attempted and our on-ball defense was horrible. Oregon, we watched every defensive play in a row [in a recent film session]. It was a two-point game with a minute to go and I didn't box out Taylor, he got an easy basket and our offense broke down. It wasn't a missed shot or someone getting hurt that you can't control. UCLA, I feel like we fought hard. They're the one team you can play your best game of the season and still lose. We just have to hope they don't do that in L.A. I haven't won there in six games.

I think what's on our mind is being at home and playing like a top-10 team. My frosh year we were No. 13 and lost to UCI. This year we lost to Siena. Now we need to play where we're at and stay here.

On whether he's taking wins for granted:

I can't say that just because we played Cal and their record doesn't show anywhere near how good or capable they are. I think without the Siena loss, it'd be a lot easier not to focus on teams with great records. We're trying to have more than one game in the Pac-10 Tournament and make the playoffs at end. It also helps having same team as last year.

Nice use of "playoffs" to avoid the "don't mention the NCAA Tournament until Trent Johnson does" rule.

On not starting at UW:

Coach said, "Sorry about not starting at Washington." I said I don't care. As long as I play. [Smiles]. Everyone wants to play.

On Mitch's development as a player:

For him, I guess he had to find himself on the court, like my frosh year. This year, it's kind of comparable to how I played last year with no expectations; I could just go out and play.

Last year, we really needed someone to step up and a lot of people, any of eight guys, could start, and lots of folks could have had the same results. So everyone outside the team wants to put him down, say he's not as good, but I don't think that's fair.

Last year, the team being so young, it was let team grow some leaves and grow up, and now we're trying to bloom.

Move aside Fred Washington, I think this guy might be my new favorite interviewee. Comparing Mitch's sophomore season to his frosh season, Mitch's junior season to his sophomore season and this team to a flowering plant, all in one response. If Brook and Robin are going into comics after they're done playing ball, Hill should try poetry.

On whether Mitch has improved as a shooter:

It's more that he didn't know what he should do, if he should be passive or aggressive. You look at the shots he's taken this year, they're real aggressive shots. He's one of the best players on our team.

He's changed his three-point shot to a set shot. It's more natural when shooting with your hand to have it in front of your body. He's changed to his set shot on threes and then pull-up jumpers, he kind of leans into it and tosses it. Last year, it seemed like he did a lot of work in the spring trying to normalize it. But as ugly as it looks, it works for him. This year, it's less ‘How did it look?' and more 'How should it feel?'

Spring and summer are for individual improvement, he and myself included, we tried to change our shots. I tried bringing it less onto the left side of my body.

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