Arizona basketball: Hill likes heavy lifting in Arizona basketball

Cats lean on ironman to log big minutes at both forward spots
2013-02-13T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:25:05Z Arizona basketball: Hill likes heavy lifting in Arizona basketballBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

After a shirtless Solomon Hill posed for the camera with a new, toned physique on a Bahamas beach last August, this was the photo caption Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller posted on his Twitter page:

"Not too many college basketball players have worked harder this offseason than this guy. Hard to recognize."

But the purpose for all that work wasn't just to star in the Twitterverse, get a pat on the back from his coach or look good on the beach.

It was for times like this month - deep into the season, when the UA has needed Hill to log an average of 35.6 minutes per game in the Pac-12 play.

"We do all the conditioning and stuff for moments like this," the 6-foot-7-inch senior said. "You feel like you're one of the best guys out there, and you want to be out there regardless. ... (When) crunch time starts to hit, you don't really worry about getting tired anymore. It's about winning and doing all you can to pull the 'W' off."

Of course, playing a lot is nothing new for Hill, who has started 127 of 137 games for the Wildcats and every game since the beginning of his sophomore season. He's already No. 10 on the UA all-time minutes played list, with 3,632, and is on pace to pass up both Damon Stoudamire (3,666) and Channing Frye (3,686) to reach the No. 8 spot when the ninth-ranked Cats play at Colorado and Utah this weekend.

But what Hill is doing this season is something else altogether. Not only is Hill logging UA's heaviest minutes, but he's also playing both his intended small forward spot and more often at power forward, because of matchups and deficiencies from the UA post players.

Miller said the two positions require "highly different" ways of playing on both ends of the court, but Hill is used to handling both.

"It doesn't bother me," Hill said. "I think coach puts me in that situation because he can trust me. I've shown I can handle both the three and the four and the major minutes at the four."

At times, Hill said, he plays power forward because UA's freshmen forwards are "not going to be the players we want them to be" and make mistakes. Hill said he likes playing there because it lets Kevin Parrom get time at small forward.

But all this shifting sometimes bothers Miller, who didn't expect to play Hill at power forward for a minute this season. He complained often of UA's "death by inches" last season when Hill played power forward and 6-foot-7-inch Jesse Perry was the center.

Miller said any of UA's offensive success this season with a smaller, quicker lineup inside is "fools gold," because that same lineup has been getting hurt on defense and on the boards.

"We are better when we play our two traditional bigs and Solomon's at the small forward. We lose too much rebounding (otherwise)," Miller said. "We're asking Solomon, in my opinion, to do too much at this time of year, and we're not nearly as physical moving, and at times, we're easier to score on close to the basket."

The situation became worse last week, when UA was without forward Grant Jerrett against Stanford because of a foot stress reaction and lost forward Brandon Ashley to a foul out. Hill logged 38 minutes.

This week, Arizona has Jerrett back, but it must deal with the high altitude at Colorado and Utah, which led Miller to use up his timeouts at Boulder, Colo., last season. Miller also gave slightly fewer minutes than normal to Hill and guard Nick Johnson in Colorado's 64-63 win.

But both Hill and Johnson said they didn't notice any extra fatigue playing at the Buffs' home last season, and Miller said he planned to keep with the "status quo" in his rotation.

The long run could be a different story.

Miller said he hoped to slightly reduce Hill's minutes - maybe just a minute or two before a media timeout - to give him a good chance to catch his breath.

If Miller can stand to pull Hill out of a game, that is.

"He plays so well and is so valuable. It's definitely not easy (to bench him)," Miller said, "especially in the second half of tight games because you trust him so much."

Rim shots

• UA signee Rondae Jefferson of Chester, Pa., was named to the Jordan Brand Classic on Tuesday and has also been invited to the McDonalds All-American game. "He's a terrific talent," Miller said.

• Jerrett was set to partially practice Tuesday and will join in lighter practices today and Thursday after he experienced what Miller called a "little bit" of soreness after the Cal game. "That's pretty much how it's going to be for him from this point moving forward, unless he were to get a setback," Miller said.

On StarNet: Watch videos of the latest McKale Center media gathering at azstarnet.com/video

Wildcat ironman

Solomon Hill's minutes and production over 11 Pac-12 games so far this season:

Averages

35.6 minutes, 51.3 pct FG, 44.4 pct 3FG, 75.8 FT%, 15.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Individual games

Date Opp. Min. Pts. Reb. FG AST.-TO

Jan. 3 COLORADO 34 15 8 4-8 0-5

Jan. 5 UTAH 35 19 6 6-7 1-3

Jan. 10 at Oregon 37 16 6 6-12 2-1

Jan. 12 at OSU 35 16 6 5-10 0-2

Jan. 19 at ASU 39 13 6 6-11 5-1

Jan. 26 UCLA 37 13 10 6-12 2-4

Jan. 26 USC 24 13 5 5-9 4-2

Jan. 31 at Washington 36 10 3 5-12 2-2

Feb. 2 at WSU 39 18 3 6-11 2-1

Feb. 6 STANFORD 38 23 6 7-13 1-3

Feb. 10 CALIFORNIA 38 13 4 4-12 3-1

Up next

• Who: No. 9 Arizona at Colorado

• When: 8 p.m. Thursday

• TV: Pac-12 Arizona

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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