There were several twists and turns on the road to signing day for Belleville (Ill.) East star Malcolm Hill, but Hill finally reached his destination on Wednesday as the 6-foot-5 wing signed his national letter of intent to attend the University of Illinois.
During a signing ceremony at Belleville East, Hill talked about some people who helped him become a high major basketball prospect. Since he committed to Illinois, the Illini went through a coaching change and Hill was shelved for much of the summer with a blood clot in his left arm.
"This is what I've been working for my whole life," Hill said. "I would like to thank everyone who supported me through my ups and downs. All of my coaches, friends, parents, teachers, and teammates."
Hill became the first member of the Illinois class of 2013 when he committed to former coach Bruce Weber in September 2011. Jay Price, a Weber assistant, was on Hill early and trailed him during the summer AAU circuit playing for the Southwestern Illinois Jets.
When Weber was let go after 9 seasons at Illinois and replaced by Groce, Hill was looking for assurance that he would still fit and that the new staff wanted him as part of the Illini program.
"After the coaching change, I just wanted to take my visit first to get to know Coach Groce and his staff," Hill said. "It wasn't really that big of a deal because he was interested in me and he knew what I was capable of doing because he had seen me play before. It was really great to know that they still wanted me and that I didn't have to de-commit to look for other schools.
"I want to thank Coach Groce and Coach Weber. Coach Price was the one that first recruited me. He gave me the opportunity to prove that I deserved a scholarship to Illinois."
Hill was a first-team Associated Press all-state selection last season, averaging 21.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. A versatile swingman, Hill said he figures to play the 2 or the 3 spot at Illinois. A natural scorer, Hill eventually wants to improve his ball skills enough to play the shooting guard spot full time.
Hill talked about the strengths of his game, what he will bring to the court next year for the Fighting Illini, and some aspects of his game that he wants to improve.
"I have a great offensive skill set which I hope to build on," Hill said. "The offensive they run at Illinois I have been playing throughout my whole life. So I think I should step in and do well. I want to improve on my defense, rebounding, and ball handling."
Illinois wings D.J Richards and Brandon Paul graduate next spring, leaving an opportunity for Hill and fellow 2013 recruit Kendrick Nunn to compete for early playing time. Hill said he isn't taking anything for granted, however.
"I think the number one thing I will bring is hard work," Hill said. "I told Groce specifically that I don't want him to guarantee me anything because I want to work for my playing time."
Now that he is officially a member of the Illini family, Hill feels relieved to have the recruiting process behind him.
"It's a great stress reliever, because I know where I'm going," Hill said. "It feels really good because I feel like I'm stepping into a new family, which I'm really excited about."