Malcolm Hill was spectacular for the first time this season. Jerusalem had waited a long long time to see Hill play up to the expectations that had been set prior to the season and he finally did so in a dominant win at Maccabi Haifa. The small forward arrived from Astana as the second highest scorer with 20.2 points per game in the VTB League just behind Alexey Shved and it was assumed Hill would fill the baskets across Israel.
However, that’s not what happened. A slow start and then a broken hand set him back for a couple of months and then some rough performances in the Basketball Champions League games at Igokea set the alarms blaring. Those games were followed up by some ho-hum outings in the Israeli league and then again in the final two BCL games. In total Hill averaged just 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in five BCL appearances which were far from impressive.
But finally something clicked at Maccabi Haifa. Hill hit two left corner triples, a number of midrange jumpers while also cleaning up some garbage near the basket due to aggressive play as he notched 23 points while puling down 9 rebounds for an efficiency rating of 31. Now that is the Hill that Jerusalem had expected to see.
“I played a good game today, but I’m not going to say that this is the game that did it. I’ll go in tomorrow, put in the extra work and keep doing what I’m doing. It’s all about consistency,” Hill said.
Consistency is the name of the game and perhaps with new head coach Dainius Adomaitis, Hill can get that consistency in his game. With Illinois between 2013-2017, his final three years were as consistent as consistent could be. Going for his Senior season to his Sophomore year, the Illinois native went 17.2, 18.1 and 14.4 points to go along with 5.1, 6.6 and 4.8 rebounds per game. Those are stellar college numbers.
As a professional, between a pair of stops in Germany and Kazakhstan, his progress has gone in the right direction as he would love to one day get back to North American and feature in the NBA. But he’s got to use the game at the Carmel to jump start his 2020/21 season and now he’s got that chance.
Adomaitis will give Hill the chances to get back to his old self as the slate is wiped clean with a new bench boss. Hill commented on the differences that he sees between Oded Katash who left to take over Panathinaikos and the Lithuanian, “The only change is just his style. Just with a new coach everything is different. They both have own unique styles and right now we are trying to grow accustomed to his style so we are all comfortable and on the same page.”
As for the expectations from Adomaitis, Hill will need to play both sides of the court hard as the coach explained, “Good defense and energy and keep playing team basketball. Finally, he was in the position that the team found him with the extra pass and he made his shots. He had energy on the glass which is very important. We need better concentration from him defensively and I think everyone can give a little bit more.”
With only two competitions left for Hapoel Jerusalem, the Israeli League and State Cup after being eliminated from the Champions League, the Reds will need to put all of their energy and focus on bringing home some sort of hardware this season.
“The only thing we can do is to look forward. It’s upsetting that we are out of the Champions League but we have the whole season left and we still have a lot of opportunities to do a lot of great things as a team.”
Winning one of the two or even both of the remaining titles will be a big time challenge with a very solid Hapoel Holon team and of course Maccabi Tel Aviv in contention for both. Should Jerusalem want to make waves they will need Hill to elevate his game and be a central player in the team’s offense. The club can’t constantly rely on Tashawn Thomas, J’Covan Brown, Suleiman Braimoh and Chris Kramer. But if the win over Haifa was any indication than perhaps Hill and the Reds are heading in the right direction.