Solomon Hill has received more attention and scrutiny than the average sophomore -- his weight issue entering his freshman year an example -- but he appears to be taking it all in stride like a senior.
In fact, in almost everything he does, Hill conducts himself beyond his years. During the press conference following Arizona's 90-42 drubbing of Idaho State at McKale Center on Sunday, Hill took control of the session with Derrick Willams and Brendon Lavender flanked by his side. He spoke with a commanding tone as if he was a coach.
Strategically, Hill acknowledged that Arizona trapped the post, a move that Arizona coach Sean Miller confirmed later was not used last season in his first year because of his personnel. The trapping defense nullified Idaho State forward Abner Moreira, who went scoreless missing six field goal attempts after scoring 12 against Colorado in an 88-80 loss Friday. Senior center Deividas Busma scored 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, but nothing came easy for him.
The inside-outside game never materialized out of the trap because of Arizona's pressure on the perimeter. The UA limited the Bengals to 28.1 percent shooting from the field, including a game-changing 0-for-12 run in the last 11 minutes of the first half.
"We need to get some hands on the entry passes," Hill said of the trapping defense. "Once it's in there, we need to make him (the center) pull it back out."
Sophomore point guard Lamont "MoMo" Jones is widely viewed as the leader of this team, but by season's end, it will become obvious that Hill could challenge Williams as the most valuable.
"We're counting on Solomon to do a lot," Miller said. "He can pass, handle the ball under pressure and score. He's very versatile in his approach."
Miller also admitted that Hill is favorable in one important category compared to his teammates.
"Solomon Hill, through 28 practices is our best player every day in practice," Miller said. "The reason is because he does everything every day. He really works hard. When he comes to the gym everyday, he takes it very seriously. Because of that, he's going to continue to develop."
Miller wants Hill to limit his turnovers -- he had only one in 20 minutes against the Bengals -- especially when he's counted on to take pressure off the guards when leading the break following an opponent's missed basket.
"It opens up the court a lot for us," Hill said about becoming the primary ball-handler in that situation. "A couple of guys, couple of guards, were staying around me trying to get a steal. It's good for Mo (Jones), Jordin (Mayes) and (Kyle) Fogg to get out on the wing and get open and knock down easy shots.
"I think as the season goes on, it will present itself for Mo to knock down couple more open jumpers. It relieves pressure on them. They don't have to come back and get the ball (after a defensive rebound). They can get up and down the court and get out on the wing. That's what coach wants. I think it's going to help our game a lot."
Perhaps more is expected of Hill because he was one of the last Lute Olson recruits, following an esteemed line of Los Angeles recruits recruited by the legendary coach. The list includes Anthony Cook (1985-89), Chris Mills (1990-93), Gilbert Arenas (1999-2001) and Hassan Adams (2002-06).
High expectations were also placed on Hill after he had a relatively strong start last year, despite showing up 30 pounds heavy at the start of the school year. In his collegiate debut last year, he scored 17 points with eight rebounds in 25 minutes against NAU. During the non-conference schedule, Hill played at least 24 minutes each game.
After the Pac-10 season started, Hill's minutes were reduced as he started to showthe inconsistency expected from a freshman. Before the last five games of the season, Hill went through a stretch of five out of seven games of playing 19 minutes or less. He became a non-factor.
Hill's strong start again this season against Idaho State with 10 points and a team-leading eight rebounds in 20 minutes should not be fool's gold again because he appears to be more in command with the psychological and physical phases of his game.
He understands what the coaches want, and as Miller indicated, he is very serious about improving his game. Make no mistake, Hill is cognizant of what Miller wants at all times. Miller has put a healthy fear into him.
"Coach told us to hit the boards," Hill said of his rebounding effort against the Bengals. "I am making sure that on film, that I'm just not standing around when the shot goes up. If nobody touches me, I can easily grab rebounds."
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