“I think it is a blessing to be able to come back and give to the community,” noted Hill, the only Minneapolis native presently playing in the WNBA. She seemed taken aback, however, that after all these years, locals still embrace her whenever she’s in town.
In town last week for a scheduled contest between the Washington Mystics, the team that drafted Hill fourth overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft, and the Minnesota Lynx, she stopped by a youth clinic at her high school alma mater, South High School, after a morning shoot-around. She talked to the MSR after her 12-point, three-rebound performance helped her team hand the hosts their worst home loss of the season.
“Yeah, it’s true,” said Hill, surprised when reminded that she still is from here. “I’ve been away for about seven-plus years — four years in college [at Ohio State] and now three years in the league. It shows they’re still supporting me and follow me. It’s a blessing.”
Hill is part of the three-year turnaround that began after Mike Thibault was hired as Washington head coach and general manager in 2012. The Mystics have made consecutive playoff appearances and are aiming for a third this summer.
Thibault told the MSR, “We’ve been banking on the development of young players. Then we brought in the veterans to come teach them how to be good pros.” He selected Hill with the “first” pick in the “3 To See” draft, immediately after Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins were chosen in 2013.
The 5’-10” Hill “gives us some spacing and balances our team” with her three-point shooting,” Thibault said. “Her quickness gives her a weapon, and she can beat people off the dribble. The nights when she is making threes really stretch the floor,” noted the coach-GM.
Hill missed most of last season as well as the typical off-season for most WNBA players — which is playing overseas — due to the birth of her son Maurice, now one. “I love being a mother,” she said proudly, adding that she is slowly getting back into competitive shape.
“I give glory to God because there’s not a lot of people who can get rid of the [baby] fat and get back into shape, to have good genetics,” continued Hill. “At the beginning of the year, I was trying to get myself in basketball shape and into game shape. I give credit to my trainers, because they pushed me when I came back. They supported me the whole time, and I appreciated it.”
Although she’s a bit behind in terms of where she had hoped to be in her third pro season, Thibault says of Hill, “She’s gotten a little bit stronger this year. I’d say over the last four weeks, she’s gotten better and better [although] I think she still has a long way to go.”
“It’s been a good year,” said Hill. “Now that I’m in the flow, it’s going good.”
“I’d say she only scratches the surface to what she can do,” concluded Thibault.
Both Hill and Thibault pointed out that this year’s Eastern Conference is as tight as it appears.
“You feel if you lose a game, you lose three places in the standings,” noted the coach.
When their defense is clicking, “We’re a hard team to beat,” added Hill of the Mystics. “We can get better.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.