Men’s basketball’s Jalen Hill working toward more consistent play
Redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Hill is averaging 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for UCLA men’s basketball this season. Hill also leads qualified Bruins with a 23.5 player efficiency rating. (Kanishka Mehra/Assistant Photo editor)
By Sam Connon
Jan. 21, 2020 6:46 p.m.
Redshirt sophomore forward/center Jalen Hill started 12 of the Bruins’ first 13 games this season, but he opened up conference play as a reserve.
Hill averaged 4.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game off the bench during UCLA men’s basketball’s (9-9, 2-3 Pac-12) two-game road trip to Washington. After shooting 80% from the field and 75% from the free throw line against USC on Jan. 11, however, coach Mick Cronin inserted Hill back into the starting lineup against Stanford and California.
“When guys hit you in the face, you’ve got to get better,” Cronin said. “I told (Hill), guys like me and him, we’re not models, so when guys hit us in the face, you’ve got to get better. And I’m being funny, but in all seriousness, it’s just part of his growth as a young guy.”
Cronin said he likes what he’s seen from Hill as of late, but that there are still holes in his game – starting with his inconsistent effort on the floor. The first-year coach made it clear that Hill spends as much time in the practice gym as any other player, but that he still needs to become a high-motor player in order to live up to his potential.
“He’s just got to try to become (Los Angeles Clippers forward) Montrezl Harrell – that’s it, that’s all he’s got to do,” Cronin said. “I know everybody loves working on his jump shot – and God knows we need some points, I love it when he can give us some offense – but he’s just got to not turn the ball over and just keep playing hard.”
Harrell, like Hill, primarily came off the bench in his first year of collegiate basketball at Louisville in 2012-2013.
Harrell then went on to average 14.8 percentage points and 8.8 rebounds per game on 58.6% shooting from the field over his next two seasons. Hill is averaging 10.5 percentage points and 8.1 rebounds in the 14 games he has started this season.
The redshirt sophomore agreed with his coach’s evaluation that effort was the key to him reaching his ceiling, even admitting to some of his recent mishaps on the court.
“I get lazy a lot, so that’s just something I’ve got to work on,” Hill said. “You’ve just got to go home and look in the mirror and be like, ‘What are your flaws, what can you do to fix them and help the team win?’ So whatever (Cronin) needs me to do, I’ll do.”
And while he has racked up eight turnovers in his last two games, Hill has still managed to take on a new role on the offensive end.
Hill has been using his jump hook in the post more regularly during conference play, and he credited associate head coach Darren Savino and senior guard Armani Dodson for helping him improve that move.
“I’ve been working on that since high school,” Hill said. “There’s been a lot of people who have put their two cents in on it, but (it’s) mostly just getting in the gym trying to perfect it. It’s still not where I want it to be, obviously, but it’s getting better.”
Hill’s teammates have taken notice of his recent performances as well, and freshman guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. said it’s been great to play alongside him.
“He had a great game against (California) and that’s what we need him to do,” Jaquez said. “He had a lot of rebounds, he played great on defense. Once we get that consistently, all the time, I think we’re going to be … really good.”