Captain of the court: Hill leads men’s basketball team to national tournament


Junior Hunter Hill tries to break through two DePauw defenders. The game was a close battle, with Augustana moving on to the next round. Photo by Hoang Nguyen.

Junior Hunter Hill tries to break through two DePauw defenders. The game was a close battle, with Augustana moving on to the next round. Photo by Hoang Nguyen.
Junior Hunter Hill tries to break through two DePauw defenders. The game was a close battle, with Augustana moving on to the next round. Photo by Hoang Nguyen.

Hunter Hill is the leader Augustana men’s basketball team needed. As the Vikings make their way to the Final Four, head coach Grey Giovanine reflected on the point guard’s leadership.

“Hunter’s been in the forefront this whole time,” Giovanine said. “He was made captain as a junior, which is unheard of. He’s a terrific player, and part of that is because he’s such a good leader.”

Hill is Augustana’s leading scorer, averaging 15.5 points per game. He also has the highest percentage for free throws (92 percent), and highest number of assists (84) and steals (36) on the team. This week, he became  Augustana’s first player to join the All Central Region team, along with junior Ben Ryan.

Hill is the top free throw shooter in school history, too. Now, he’s leading the team to the Final Four for the first time in 22 years and he doesn’t plan on losing.

“Coming into the Final Four, I feel very prepared and ready,” Hill said. “The guys on this team are all confident and we are playing for each other… I feel like when (we) play as a cohesive unit defensively and control the tempo of the game, we always put ourselves in a position to win.”

Giovanine said Hill was always a promising player, but his rise to the top has been gradual.

“As he’s matured and gained more confidence, things have really shaped up,” Giovanine explained. “He really emerged as a leader two summers ago on our trip to Brazil. That’s when he emerged as point guard.”

He said sophomore year Hill started showing the leadership qualities he’s known for today. This year, Giovanine said Hill’s focus has been on the whole team and making everyone around him a better player.

“I’ve always gotten in the gym by myself and worked my butt off to put myself in the best position for success,” Hill said. “But this year and this past summer, I realized in order for us to have a legitimate shot at a national championship, everyone has to be working as hard as they can. So, I focused on getting teammates in the gym with me whenever I went, bringing energy everyday in practice, making sure my teammates stay confident, holding guys accountable, and it has helped.”

Hill’s enthusiasm and tenacity has not been untested, though. The past four years have been especially difficult. His father passed away from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011, and his grandmother died in 2014 from lung cancer.

“I believe those two had some of the biggest impacts on my life,” Hill explained. “My dad being a Navy Seal instilled the work ethic I have, always holding me accountable, even at a young age. When he passed away, I didn’t realize how well he prepared me for life in general.”

Hill said his family life is unique, with relatives spread out across the country. His mom currently lives in Florida, his sister is in Colorado and other relatives are in Wisconsin and Texas. But he said they always stay in touch.

“My family life overall has made me who I am, and I believe has made me a little tougher,” he added.

He’s also had the support from his trainers Jordan Delp and Darren Phelps, and Coach Giovanine.

“Coach Giovanine has been like a father figure to me,” Hill said. “He helps develop young men not just into basketball players. Whether it’s instilling an even better work ethic, holding you accountable in the classroom, helping you get a job–the list goes on, but he is great at what he does.”

But Hill said he would be nowhere without the rest of the players on the team.

“The Augustana basketball team has influenced me in many way obviously, but most importantly they’ve shown me that when you face years of hard work and adversity with the same group of guys, you build relationships that will last a lifetime,” Hill explained. “This is the closest team I’ve ever been apart of, so I know that will hold true.”

And as the team faces Friday’s national semifinal match against Babson, in Salem, Va., the players are closer than ever, united by the spirit of the Augustana and Quad Cities community.

“When students are on campus and at the games, the environment is phenomenal,” Giovanine said.  There’s nothing as galvanizing and uniting for a community like a strong athletic team.”