Kasey Hill: King Of The Court
Over the next few weeks, basketball fans may see a lot of heralded prep standout Kasey Hill (Montverde Academy/Eustis, Fla.). His prestigious selection to the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team that will play in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit, is just the beginning of the list. Hill also will be looking for victories in the 2013 McDonald's All-America Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.
"It feels great to get the chance to play in these games," the 6'0" Hill said. "I've always wanted to play for USA Basketball, and I've always wanted to be a McDonald's All-American. If you are a basketball player, you want to be in those games and you want to be at that level."
One place you won't see Hill, however, is in the Florida High School Athletic Association state tournament. It isn't that Hill and his teammates aren't good enough, it's that Montverde belongs to the National Association of Independent Schools and instead will travel to Maryland for the National High School Invitational (NHSI), which will feature eight teams April 4-6.
In fact, Montverde is 23-2 this season and has spent much of the year at No. 2 in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings. Sitting above Montverde on the list is Findlay Prep (Nevada), which not only handed Montverde one of its two losses during 2012-13 but also downed Montverde in overtime of the 2012 NHSI championship game.
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"This season has been great for me," Hill said of his senior year. "We were rolling along, until the Findlay game, of course, but we have moved on from that and practiced hard every day. We will see what happens in the national tournament. Hopefully we will win it all there."
Alongside Hill at Montverde Academy and certainly another factor in the teams success is Dakari Johnson, a junior forward who won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania.
"I didn't talk to him much about the Nike Hoop Summit," Hill said. "He just told me it was really fun when he went and played for USA Basketball, and that it was one of the best times of his life playing with those guys."
Perhaps Hill didn't consult Johnson for advice because he didn't need any. Hill said has watched at least the past two Nike Hoop Summits, seeing the USA secure a 92-80 win in 2011 and then watching the USA lose to the World Team 84-75 in 2012.
"When I got the call from USA Basketball, I was just really excited and happy to be a part of something like this," Hill said. "I knew what the Nike Hoop Summit was. I watched some of the previous years, last year and the year before that. Nobody wants to lose when you are playing for your country, and the game is really competitive. The U.S. always wants to win, and other countries always want to beat the U.S. That is the one thing that stands out to me the most about the game.
"It is just really an honor, and I'm blessed to play for my country. I'm happy for me and my family to be a part of something like this. Not many players get this opportunity."
Another opportunity Hill seized is his chance to play at the next level, signing a National Letter of Intent to attend and play basketball at the University of Florida in 2013-14. Hill will play in college for Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who also has been named head coach of the 2013 USA Men's U19 World Championship Team.
"I really trusted coach Donovan a lot," Hill said of his college choice. "He seems like a down-to-earth guy. I just felt like he has been honest with me. And it's close to home, to my family."
Between now and arrving on campus in the fall, Hill admits he has work to do.
"Assist-to-turnover ratio is one of the things I need to improve," Hill said. "I have to become a better shooter and get stronger. Other than that, I think I will have to get used to things and be able to listen to whatever the coaches tell me do to."
One of the top-ranked guards in his class, Hill says he stays motivated through all of the hard work by competition itself.
"I just like to win," Hill admitted. "A lot. As much as I can. I try to improve every game. I try to cut down on turnovers and always improve my assist-to-turnover ratio every time I play."
Hopefully, Hill and his U.S. teammates are smiling and happy come the evening of April 20, having secured the USA a win in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit. Get your tickets now.