Monday, June 11, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Jalen Hill says he doesn’t mind flying under the radar, but he sure has a funny way of showing it.
The 6-foot-6 Clark swingman has been underrated by recruiting services for years now, despite possessing the kind of athleticism and all-around game that should make him one of the most coveted local prospects in the Class of 2019. But with his recent play on the AAU circuit – including a series of jaw-droppingly telegenic dunks – he can no longer be ignored.
Hill enjoyed a fine junior season at Clark, averaging 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, but his output wasn’t quite enough to draw national attention. Rivals.com, one of the most prestigious recruiting sites, still rates him as a 3-star prospect and does not include him in its rankings of top Nevada players.
His stock should climb considerably the next time the rankings are updated, however, as his work on the AAU circuit has been blue-chip quality. When his AAU team, the Las Vegas Prospects, participated in Nike EYBL events in the spring, Hill’s versatility shined through as posted a team-high 17.5 points per game along with 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 steals.
Nike EYBL events feature a distilled collection top national competition, so playing well in front of college coaches in those games is a surefire way to build recruiting momentum. And Hill didn’t just play well – he turned heads. At an EYBL event in Indianapolis in April, he threw down a dunk that quickly went viral on social media.
Hill said he doesn’t pay attention to rankings, but that he feels vindicated by his strong showing during AAU season.
“I’ve always felt like one of the top players in my class,” Hill said. “I felt last year I was flying under the radar, but this past spring session for EYBL, I felt I came out and made name for myself.”
Prospects coach Anthony Brown volunteered to take the blame for Hill’s recruiting profile. Brown asked Hill to play down an age group last summer, and the youngster complied.
“I’ve known him since the eighth grade, and he was always the best player in that class,” Brown said. “I’ll take full responsibility for the lack of hype around him until recently. He took a lesser role with us last year by playing 16-under instead of 17-under. That team was not as talented, so they didn’t draw as much attention from coaches and scouts to come and watch. That goes to the kind of kid he is and his loyalty. We needed him to play for that team and he did that for us. By the end of this summer he’ll be top 100, he’ll be four stars. He’ll get all that.”
Hill does a little bit of everything on the court, with a varied offensive game that keeps defenders on their heels. He has gotten Scottie Pippen comparisons from coaches, while he says that he tries to model his game after the best all-around player in the world, LeBron James.
“I’m more of a slasher, but I feel I can score on all three levels,” Hill said. “Mid-range, 3-point shots, close range around the rim. I feel like I can do a little of everything. Over the last couple years I’ve put a lot into my jump shot and ball-handling. I also have more confidence on the court; I’ve gained a lot of confidence the last couple years. Playing with more confidence and believing in myself more has let my overall game come out.”
Now, Hill is playing too well to avoid attention even if he wanted to. At the Pangos All-America camp last weekend, he slammed home another vicious dunk that made the rounds on basketball twitter.
Hill has seen an uptick in recruiting attention since he started throwing down on EYBL opponents and posterizing Pangos competition. As of now, he has offers from UNLV, Arizona State, Boston College, DePaul, Florida State, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, San Diego State, St. John’s, TCU, UCSB and USC.
He hasn’t taken any official visits yet and doesn’t plan to start visiting schools until August, after the conclusion of AAU season. After taking his visits, he wants to have a college decision made before the fall signing period.
Hill said he has visited UNLV unofficially and that the Rebels are a serious contender.
“I have a real good relationship with coach [Marvin] Menzies and the coaching staff there,” Hill said. “Coach Preston [Laird], coach [Andre] LaFleur, I’m close with them all. UNLV is one of the schools I would consider going to.”
In the meantime, Hill will keep playing, keep turning heads and continue picking up offers.
And as for those dunks that have raised his profile recently? Hill said a defender under the basket will never dissuade him from going up strong.
“I don’t know why [defenders] do it, but I always accept the challenge,” Hill said. “Even if I get blocked, I’m going to try to get them on the next play."