Ohio State basketball is betting on the fact spectators will be seeing a lot of the Hills this season.
No, not the brain-numbing, MTV reality show featuring Lauren Conrad and her catty band, but rather the sibling duo of P.J. Hill, a guard on the men’s basketball team, and his sister Tayler, a newcomer to the OSU women’s basketball team.
There are undeniable similarities between the two. Both play guard and took the number four for their jerseys.
P.J. Hill has long been a favorite of Buckeye fans. The 6-feet 1 inches guard has made a name for himself by coming off the bench and instantly raising the team’s intensity level with a key steal or assist. This year, Hill is being counted on this season to expand his role.
“Last year, a lot of teams got away with not guarding me,” he said. “I took that personally, like ‘you can’t shoot, you’re not effective on offense, you’re not a threat.’ So I took that stuff personally. When I get in the games, I’m going to step up and knock those shots down with confidence. I’m going to be an impact player. I’m going to be a threat on both ends of the court.”
While senior Hill enters the final act of his career with the OSU men’s basketball team, freshman Tayler Hill begins hers with the women’s team.
Tayler Hill comes to the Buckeyes as one of the most decorated players in Minnesota basketball history. She is Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer in high school basketball, boys and girls, and was selected as a 2009 McDonald’s All American.
While leading her team to a state high school championship, she averaged 31.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.7 steals per game.
She finished her high school playing career with 3,894 points. She joins a deep, veteran women’s basketball team that has already established leadership.
“If Coach [Jim] Foster wants me on the floor, that’s where I’m going to be at,” Hill said. “If he needs me on the bench cheering my team on, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Rather than be daunted by the prospect of becoming another cog in the machine, as opposed to its centerpiece, she is embracing the positives that come with it.
“I’m excited,” she said. “There were times when games got tough in high school when I had to have the ball in my hands at all times. I can rely on other players on this team, I can pass and screen away.”
The pride Tayler has for her older brother shines through when she speaks of him. His non-traditional path to the OSU basketball team, which saw him transfer before his sophomore year from tiny Midland College, is a lesson to her in persistence.
“My brother is my role model,” she said. “Seeing him work every day and keeping the faith that he has, I know that if he can do it, than I can too. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
There’s a double meaning in that statement. Although the particulars of P.J.’s role in helping bring Tayler to OSU are unclear, his influence is not.
“He was a big factor in this because my brother and I are best friends,” Tayler said. “Knowing I can count on him when things get hard was a really big deal for me.”
Foster was guarded in his praise of Tayler Hill.
“She’s talented and she can go up and down the floor,” Foster said. “When you’ve scored 4,000 points in your high school career, how many times have you been on the floor with players better than you?”
But her freshman status does not necessarily exclude her from cracking the starting lineup in her first year, as evidenced by the playing time given to Jantel Lavender and Sammy Prahalis in their freshmen campaigns.
“If you’re a great player or have the potential to be a great player, room is made for them because they earn it,” Foster said. “We’ll find out.”
When asked about P.J.’s role in recruiting Tayler to OSU, Foster was glib.
“I would say that he’s not disappointed that his sister’s here,” he said.
Junior center Jantel Lavender, the team’s leader on the floor, likes what she sees in Tayler.
“She’s a great shooter, she’s a great passer, she’s a great leader and she works extremely hard all the time,” Lavender said of Hill. “Those are the attributes that you need.”