In the months leading up to the 2015-16 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the 'BTPowerhouse 25,' which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.
Today's edition will take a brief look at Malcolm Hill of the Illinois Fighting Illini, who came in at #10 in the rankings. Hill enters his junior season with high expectations after a strong sophomore campaign for the Orange and Blue.
‘BTP 25'- #10 Malcolm Hill
- Eligibility: Junior
- Career Totals: 68 games, 1,505 minutes, 629 points, 244 rebounds, 67 assists
- 2014-15 Averages: 30.6 min, 14.4 pts, 4.8 rbs, 1.3 asts, 0.2 blks, 0.8 stls
- Positional Role: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
At 6-6, 230lbs, Malcolm Hill embodies the ideal physique of an NCAA 3-guard. After a relatively quiet freshman season, Hill exploded onto the scene his sophomore year, upping his PPG from 4.4 to 14.4 and his RPG from 2.4 to 4.8. But it wasn't until Illini senior and leading scorer Rayvonte Rice went down for nine-games, that Hill's play really took off. He immediately emerged as the focal point of the Illinois offense, scoring a career-high 28 points in the Illini's big upset win over the #11 Maryland Terrapins on January 7th.
The strength of Hill's game can't be defined by one aspect. Not many guys in the Big Ten can beat you three different ways, but Hill can. His versatility gives him the option to drive to the lane, pull up from three (38.9% from beyond the arc last year) or take a mid-range jump shot. From the field, Hill has been solid hitting 44.3% of his shots, and this poses a major threat for opponents. This not to mention his game beneath the basket where he also can pull down boards. At the end of the 2014-2015 Big Ten season, Hill was named to the All-Big Ten Third Team.
Areas for Improvement
The main thing Hill lacks right now is vocal and emotional leadership. For the past five seasons, much of the team's drive has centered around guard Tracy Abrams, who is currently the longest tenured player with the program. However, because Abrams is gone for a second straight season with a torn ACL, Hill will need to step up in the locker room. It's clear Illinois has struggled over the past couple seasons, missing the NCAA tournament back-to-back years. With a young and talented recruiting class coming in and a strong senior class already out, a changing of the guards is already at hand. Hill has the opportunity to push these young guys to become better teammates and basketball players, if he so chooses. If successful, this will prove evident on the court for Illinois.
Rayvonte Rice now completely out of the picture, this is Hill's team to run. Head coach John Groce will be putting the ball in Hill's hands much of this season, especially in key situations. After such a drastic improvement from his freshman to his sophomore season, it remains difficult to say where the ceiling Hill is. Believe it or not, in his senior year in high school, he averaged just over 25.0 PPG.
Expect around 16.0 and 5.0 from Hill on a nightly basis. The addition of freshman shooters Jalen Coleman-Lands and Aaron Jordan may have a slight impact on his shot selection, but he still should take around 11 or 12 field goals per game. Early speculation puts Hill as second/third team All-B1G, further emphasizing the hefty projections for this year. If he is consistently able to provide as expected, the Illini will have their go-to guy this season.
'BTPowerhouse 25' Rankings
- Players That Just Missed The Cut
- #25 - Kendrick Nunn (Illinois)
- #24 - Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern)
- #22 (tie) Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland)
- #22 (tie) - Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
- #21 - Rapheal Davis (Purdue)
- #20 - Derrick Walton Jr. (Michigan)
- #19 - Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
- #18 - Shavon Shields (Nebraska)
- #17 - Eron Harris (Michigan State)
- #16 - Zak Irvin (Michigan)
- #15 - Jae'Sean Tate (Ohio State)
- #14 - Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin)
- #13 - Alex Olah (Northwestern)
- #11 (tie) - Diamond Stone (Maryland)
- #11 (tie) - James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana)
- #10 - Malcolm Hill (Illinois)
- #9 - To be continued ...