The story of how Wisconsin's newest verbal commit Jordan Hill caught Bo Ryan's eye sounds a bit hokey at first. Well, okay, maybe on second glance it still sounds a little weird.
As Hill's AAU coach tells it, the 6'3" guard threw a double-whammy at Ryan almost by accident in July as the Badger head man was scouting his younger teammate Bryan Alberts in Chicago. According to Robert Icart, who directs the BTI Pump 'N Run program out of the Los Angeles area, Hill was on the court bright and early, running drills with a teammate before an 8 a.m. game. He followed up with the "game of this life" in front of Ryan.
"He is always great defensively, but he was phenomenal offensively. He made every open three. He got to the basket. He had double-digit assists."
Wisconsin remained the only high-profile program to offer Hill through the July evaluation period. While it's natural to wonder if Ryan became too enamored with Hill at the expense of pressing needs elsewhere, Icart's comments about the "blue collar" nature of the BTI program and the fact that Hill was being courted by Ivy League programs makes it obvious why Hill would be a good fit in Madison. Yesterday's announcement just made it official.
Committed to the University of Wisconsin !— LonnieLovee (@JTaylored21) August 7, 2012
On-ball defense has been Hill's calling card to this point, but his leadership qualities also stood out to Phillips Exeter Academy head coach Jay Tilton. Hill will spend a post-grad season at Exeter after playing prep hoops first for Temple City and then La Salle High School in Pasadena, California. Who knows, maybe Ryan thinks Hill has a bit of Michael Flowers in him. He certainly has the disposition for it:
"They are interested in me playing both guard positions and being the tenacious defender I am," said Hill. "I'll definitely have to come in and work my butt off to get time and do what I want to do which is be an All-Big Ten defender and start."
Hill's verbal is Wisconsin's third in as many months. He joins Minnesota's Riley Dearring as surprising guard recruits who quickly accepted Badger offers. That still leaves the UW with big holes to fill in the front court on its upcoming rosters, so you will see the Badgers start to cut recruiting ties with wings like Jalen Norman since the guard position is stacked to the brim.
What the commitments of Hill, Dearring and Bronson Koenig really mean is the Badger big man derby for 2013 comes down to Kyle Washington and Vitto Brown. And I like their chances with either one despite the many new offers coming Washington's way of late. Wisconsin can take both if freshman Zak Showalter goes back off scholarship for the 2013-14 season. Brown is expecting to make an official visit to Madison on August 30th. It doesn't look like Koenig's camp buddy Akoy Agau will get an offer either at this point.
The other offers extended right now in the class are to players probably headed elsewhere. Semi Ojeleye has listened to virtually every sales pitch out there and will likely choose one of the heavy hitters after him, whether it be Duke, Indiana (grrr...) or UCLA. Meanwhile, fast-rising Nigel Hayes finally got his coveted Ohio State offer recently and wouldn't surprise anyone by accepting it sooner than later.
Snagging two big men to round out the '13 class is the most desirable resolution to the dilemma of replacing Frank Kaminsky and Evan Anderson after they graduate in 2014. It's possible that being able to work with his players in the summer for the first time ever has given Ryan a better idea of how Anderson will be able to contribute over the next three seasons. But until he's proves otherwise, I wouldn't count on Anderson for more than spot duty.
Ideally, having two freshman bigs in next year's rookie crop would give you multiple experienced bodies up front in 2014 to allow Sam Dekker to work his magic from all over the floor -- instead of being stuck at power forward.
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