When Kasey Hill arrived at Florida last year to play for Billy Donovan’s team, he didn’t get the typical experience most freshmen do sitting on the bench and observing – he did it all.
As a 20-year-old rookie, Hill was expected to immediately come in, start and help the Gators when then starting point guard, Scottie Wilbekin, was out due to a suspension for violating team rules.
Hill was the back up point guard, fresh out of high school, with no collegiate experience. He had to embrace challenges he wasn’t expecting to endure early on.
A part of his experience included being one of four players to have recorded 10 or more assists in a Sweet 16 contest as a freshman. Hill would join the names of Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and Keith Gatlin in that category as he gained an understanding of being successful on the court.
With Hill’s success also came typical freshman growing pains and failure. Hill experienced those freshman woes, but acknowledged good came out of it.
“With Scottie, I had to play through mistakes a little bit more because he wasn’t there playing, obviously. But I can say just probably just playing through more mistakes is one thing that helped me out a little bit,” Hill said. “But when [Wilbekin] was here, his energy, his passion for the game, competitiveness, being on the right spot on defense and stuff like that helped me out a lot.”
Three words described Hill’s performance last season: ups and downs. That is what Donovan had Hill worked on over the summer and what he remembers of last year’s rookie has now vanished.
“Totally different,” Donovan said of Hill. “The one thing I was disappointed at him last year, and Kasey knows this because we had discussions about this, I thought a lot of times his effort and his energy was really up and down and he’s such a great kid and he’s so laid back sometimes, it’s not a good disposition as a 6-foot-1 point guard and I would say that since we’ve practiced, I have not seen any of that. That would be an area where I’ve seen growth in him which is going to make our team better and going to make him better as well.”
Now a sophomore — and being fully incorporated into Florida’s system — the Umatilla, Florida native has prepared to no longer be the apprentice, but to be the leader, guiding his teammates on the court as the new starting point guard.
Although the team has gone through only a couple of practice sessions, Hill has applied what he worked on over the offseason and grasped on specific details to enhance his game.
Among going from 185 to 170 in weight, learning the pick-and-roll, establishing a 15-footer and having his toughest offseason this summer, what Hill wanted and has implemented the most is being vocal, especially in front of someone who was in his place.
“For [Chris] Chiozza, he’s a first year just like I was last year. On defense for example I didn’t talk a lot last year and I can see him going through the same thing right now. Helping him in that way I could say I became more vocal.”
If you think about all the involvement Hill encountered last season with a school-record winning streak, winning the SEC tournament and making it to the Final Four, he shows he’s more equipped than other collegiate point guards as a sophomore.
Hill now has the chance to become the Gators’ floor general and with the anticipated transition offense that Donovan has implemented thus far in practices, Kasey can allow his gameplay and experience to flow right into this year’s team.
“I think all of the experiences have helped him,” Donovan said. “But right now at least all I can talk about is what I’ve seen so far and deal what we’ve done so far and right now I think Kasey’s got it.”