Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
With the Ohio State women’s basketball team on the verge of missing its first NCAA tournament berth since coach Jim Foster’s arrival in 2002, the possibility of coming up short is starting to sink in for the Buckeyes.
However, it’s not the possible absence from the tourney that has shaken the team most, but rather the coming to terms with losing its star senior guard, Tayler Hill, at the conclusion of this season.
Hill is averaging 21.1 points per game, which leads all scorers in the Big Ten.
“I think (Hill) deserves to be one of the best players in the country despite the team’s record this year,” said Ohio State redshirt senior guard Amber Stokes.
The Buckeyes (14-10, 4-7 Big Ten) have been plagued by illnesses and injuries all season long, which are partly to blame for the 4-7 record in conference play.
Yet even in times of trial, Hill’s performance on the court has rarely faltered.
Following a 68-45 win against Indiana on Jan. 17, Foster said “Hill didn’t have her legs,” from being ill in the days before the game.
Hill, though, still managed to keep Hoosiers’ standout senior forward Aulani Sinclair to five points on 2-for-15 shooting.
“She is a hard worker and will do anything it takes to help this team to be successful,” Stokes said.
Hill’s hard work and dedication to the game can be traced back to her basketball days at South High School in Minneapolis, Minn. Hill ended her four-year varsity career as Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer (boy or girl) with 3,888 points.
After graduating from OSU, Hill said she wants to play in the WNBA and play basketball overseas.
Foster said he believes Hill is going to be a high draft choice.
“She’s a very good defensive player,” Foster said. “I think her versatility really makes her a valuable attribute. She can score, she can play the point, and she can play from the perimeter … All those things are a big deal to a coach.”
While Hill said she would love to play on any team in the WNBA, she would prefer to play in Minnesota.
“Playing at home would be great because of family,” Hill said.
Hill’s native WNBA team, the Minnesota Lynx, are regarded as one of the top teams in the league, especially with the recent addition of former Connecticut standout Maya Moore.
The Buckeyes, though, will likely have big shoes to fill with the loss of Hill.
But Foster is assured that the offseason will serve as an opportunity to get better.
“There are a number of candidates that are going to play for that position,” Foster said.
After losing to Nebraska, 58-39, Thursday night in Lincoln, Neb., the Buckeyes are set to play Minnesota Feb. 21 at the Schottenstein Center.