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October 16, 2011If one didn't know better, it would almost seem as though Malcolm Hill was just another fan at Illinois' first open practice of the 2011 season. Sporting a retro Los Angeles Lakers cap and a new pair of glasses at the scrimmage, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard was perfectly content with blending in with the crowd.
The Illinois open gym and practice was the first stop of a busy weekend for Hill.
"This is great," Hill said at the scrimmage. "I'm going to stay for the whole practice, head to the football game, and then I'm going back for my homecoming dance. I'm excited to be here and watch the first practice."
Around recruiting circles, Hill is known as a scorer. The long-limbed high school junior is often seen slashing to the lane or showcasing an imposing pull-up jump shot. Opposing players quickly accept that fact that Hill is able to score in multiple ways, often making him too much to handle.
It is for those reasons that Hill was such a sought-after recruit. He eventually chose his home-state Illini over prominent programs such as Xavier, Missouri, Kansas State and Ohio State. Hill plans on being a stable in Bruce Weber's free-flowing motion offense.
"I think I fit in well at Illinois because they do a lot of motion, which is something I really like," Hill said. "I feel like I'm a scorer, and I like the fast tempo that Illinois uses."
But the four-star recruit is by no means a finished product. While Hill is most often the featured offensive player on the stat sheet, the energy he exerts while his team has the ball often affects his play at the opposite end of the court. The Belleville East product isn't bashful about what he needs to improve on before arriving in Champaign in approximately two years.
"I need to work on going 100-percent at all times, my on-ball pressure, my perimeter scoring and my rebounding," Hill proclaimed. "I'm a good scorer, but I still get beat on defense too often. There's always room to improve."
Hill is also looking to improve his future team's recruiting efforts. Illinois, which has already secured commitments from Hill and four-star point guard Jalen James, is already off to an impressive start in the class of 2013.
He wouldn't tip his hand about whom he communicates with, but Hill admitted to staying in regular contact with several other Illinois recruiting targets. Of course it all starts with James, who was the first junior to jump on the Illinois bandwagon when he committed over the summer.
"I've been talking a lot with this guy right here," Hill said while pointing to James, who was two seats away from him at the Illinois practice on Saturday. "We talk on Twitter, we text a lot, and I talk to a lot of other recruits, too."
Even for a committed prospect like Hill, the hectic lifestyle of high-profile recruit never ends. There are always more AAU games to play, more reporters to talk to and more autographs to sign. Even so, Hill is happy with his pledge to the Illini. He reiterated how nice is way to be able to relax and not worry about talking to coaches from so many schools.
He's now focused on only one program. And although Illinois features seven newcomers this season, Hill has high hopes for his future squad.
"One of the best teams in the Big Ten," Hill said when asked what he expected out of Illinois this season. "They're young, but they have talent. I'm excited . I'll be watching closely."
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