Hill steals the show, but shares the glory

Kevin Castaneda/Staff Writer

In every men’s basketball game at the U.S. Century Bank Arena, you can count on Deric Hill’s mom yelling from the stands.

“There’s a thief on the court!”

She calls him a thief for a good reason. He’s the Robin Hood of the team at FIU: He steals from the opposing team and gives assists to his fellow Panthers.

“He gets 10 to 15 deflections a game on his own, he will step up and draw the charge. He will get back-tips, he will get steals,” Head Coach Richard Pitino said. “Those are things that within our style of play are really helping us out.”

Hill, a sophomore, began the season as the starting point guard for FIU. He beat out guys like Gaby Belardo and Cameron Bell, both experienced seniors, for the prestigious starting role.

However, Hill gave up 10 turnovers in their first two contests and lost the job to Belardo. He could have shouted and pouted, but Hill is team player first.

“It doesn’t bother him at all. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, all he cares about is the amount of minutes he plays,” Pitino said.
Hill reiterated the sentiment.

“I treat everything with the same effort, whether I am starting or not. No matter what, I give 100 percent,” Hill said.

Deric Hill, a player that Head Coach Richard Pitino puts in the lineup to provide a spark for the team, is in the top 10 in the conference in assists and top 5 in steals.

Deric Hill, a player that Head Coach Richard Pitino puts in the lineup to provide a spark for the team, is in the top 10 in the conference in assists and top 5 in steals.

That attitude is what has led the Miami native to be one of the premiere guards in the Sun Belt Conference.

Hill averages nearly two steals a game which is fourth best in the Sun Belt Conference. He is behind players like Elfrid Payton, Chris Jones and Ed Townsel. All of these players hover slightly above two steals a contest. The difference is that Hill is doing this off the bench, averaging 18 minutes a game compared to the 30 minutes these starters receive.

“He brings 100 percent energy to every game. He gets all the back-tips,” Belardo said. “He plays better defense than I do, and in this program you have to play defense full-court.”

The 5-foot-9 point guard has some of the best eyes on the court. He navigates traffic effortlessly and always finds a way to put the ball in his teammates hands. He leads the Panthers in assists with nearly three a game and is ranked ninth in the SBC.

“He knows how to dribble to the basket and find the big men,” Belardo said.

Hill is one of the few players who chose to return to FIU after the turmoil-fueled season last year when former Head Coach Isaiah Thomas was fired and several players transferred.

“It is a lot better this season,” Hill said. “Coach Pitino gives me confidence. It shows in practice and it carries over into the games.”
Through the adversities of an 8-21 record last season, and the uphill battle this season, Hill has emerged as a leader for the Panthers this year.

“I would say leading this team is me, Gaby and Deric,” Malik Smith said.

It is no coincidence that in Pitino’s up-tempo style of basketball, the leaders of the team would be the guards. But Hill holds a special role on this roster.

“We don’t want to slow down and he speeds the game up. He is the guy always at the front of the press and dictates what’s going on,” Pitino said. “He does a great job at that.”

Hill, a business major, plans to go into coaching following his career at FIU. In order to achieve his goal, he understands the importance of the classroom. Following this season, he wants the team to hit the textbooks hard.

“I want to help the team with our grades. We will go into tutoring after the season to concentrate on our grades,” Hill said.
Hill’s positive attitude, hard work ethic and selfless character have earned him the trust of his teammates, on and off the court.

“He is definitely the guy. He is doing a wonderful job out there and I am proud of him,” Belardo said.