Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hill Knows the Formula

Ahmed Hill: Aquinas High School
Photo Courtesy of Ty Freeman
Ahmed Hill, who was featured in the first episode of "The Hoops Show," spent much of his Spring and Summer developing his basketball skills.  It is noteworthy that the prep standout who has received scholarship offers from many of the nation's premiere basketball programs focused specifically on the areas of his game most in need of improvement.  And it is telling that, after a fine July month on the "AAU circuit," the coaches and scouts who are so impressed with Hill's abilities list the areas of the game that he and his astute AAU coach, Mike Stokes, identified late in the Spring as skills needing extra refinement: notably Hill's ability to score off the dribble.

Aspiring basketball players can learn from Hill.  To the casual observer, the explosive guard has a lot going for himself, playing for an AAU team that competes in the nation's biggest tournaments, namely the Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam, where the Southern Stampede came within one possession of winning the impressive tournament's 16 & Under division, and the loaded Power 24, a tournament that Hill's squad won after beating all opponents in a "super pool" consisting of top teams from all over the southeast.  But Hill's success has much less to do with the tournaments his team attends than the time and effort he expends in the gym between those tournaments.  While many high school players spend nearly every weekend of the Spring and Summer competing in AAU tournaments, Stampede coach Mike Stokes is selective in choosing where and when to compete.

This approach leaves a significant amount of time for Hill to spend addressing deficiencies and refining the areas of the game in which he excels.  The dynamic wing, who averaged over 20 points per game as a sophomore has always been able to knock down the long and medium range jump shot and finish above the rim when given a lane to the basket, was less effective in the Spring at creating his shot off the dribble.  But while peers filled the June month with summer league games and team camps, Hill consistently played pick up basketball with local college and professional players and worked individually on his ball handling and one on one scoring skills.

This work paid off handsomely during the Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam.  With few exceptions, Hill capitalized on his size and athleticism by clearing the defensive glass, sprinting into the open court, and attacking the rim.  I believe Hill's "July habit" of making important three pointers late in close contests flows from the fact that he is so engaged in the game at all times and playing so freely.  It has frequently been said that the long shots go in more often when the shooter has already made some easy baskets.  The time he has invested in his ball handling skills have enabled him to fill in the gap between his sweet jump shot and his impressive athleticism.  So players wanting to improve should take Hill's lead and apply the time tested formula of spending a great deal of quality time practicing before displaying the skills that the casual observer may think come naturally.

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