Our Greatest Games series is a look back at some of the most memorable single game performances by some of the best players in Arizona basketball history. Make sure to check PGU for the next installment.
When Jordan Hill arrived at Arizona, not many fans knew much about the South Carolina native. His mother died of breast cancer when Hill was three, and he spent much of his young life raising his siblings instead of playing basketball. In fact, it was only by chance that Lute Olson and Josh Pastner happened to be sitting in a Houston gym when they saw a raw 6’10 center have a breakout performance against DeAndre Jordan during an AAU game.
In the three years that followed, Hill made a meteoric ascension from a player who only started playing competitively as a high school junior to a top 10 NBA Draft pick. These two games both significantly shaped his path.
January 24, 2006, Arizona 71, Arizona State 47
12 points (5-7 FG), 9 rebounds
Throughout the first 18 games of his tenure at Arizona, Hill wasn’t able to earn enough playing time to make his presence truly felt on the court. But when the Wildcats lost three straight Pac-12 matchups, Coach Olson decided to switch things up a bit by giving Hill more minutes.
He responded by scoring a then-career high 12 points and racking up nine boards. Each time Hill returned to the bench during a timeout break, teammates poured affection over him, even after he sent Mohamed Tangara to the hospital with an inadvertent elbow.
The boost Arizona got from the win was short lived, as three days later, UNC came to town and delivered an unspeakably bad beat-down. However, it propelled Hill the rest of his freshman season, including that UNC game in which he recorded his first ever double-double.
December 23, 2008, Arizona 84, Kansas 67
23 points points (11-23 FG), 11 rebounds
Facing the defending national champions led by Cole Aldrich, Hill won the battle of the bigs as the Wildcats’ center scored a game high 23 points while picking up yet another double-double with 11 rebounds.
After going into the locker room down three, Hill helped Arizona go on a 29-6 second half run. The national audience provided the center with the platform to showcase his skills and he was certainly up for the task.
He would go on to average 18 points and 11 rebounds his junior year, truly one of the greatest seasons by a center in school history. Despite the Wildcats not meeting expectations in 2008-09, even though the Wildcats reached a Sweet 16, Hill’s play was consistent and it earned him Third-Team All America honors by Sporting News.
Months later, Hill would be selected with the 8th overall pick in the NBA Draft, something that no one could have foreseen a few years earlier. Hill is currently poised to see big minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers.