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Hill commitment completes ’14 transformation

Ahmed Hill has serious upside, but he'll also contribute as a freshman. (via chronicle.augusta.com)

Ahmed Hill has serious upside, but he’ll also contribute as a freshman. (via chronicle.augusta.com)

Of all the high-school athletes and junior-college prospects Marquette purses on the recruiting trail, there’s a select few Buzz Williams has written down as part of his monthly calendar that he refers to as “real dudes.” Interest is one thing; even offering a scholarship to a player means something, but not until a player shows up on Williams’ list can they be considered someone Marquette wants and would accept a scholarship from on the spot.

Ahmed Hill was a “real dude,” and Williams got his guy when he committed to Marquette last Saturday.

Williams had been recruiting Hill since the shooting guard’s sophomore season in 2011, and offered him a scholarship in January. From that point on the 6-foot-4 Hill became Marquette’s top priority. Williams made numerous trips to Georgia to check in on Hill, the coaching staff visited him in April and later in the month assistant coach Isaac Chew traveled to Los Angeles to watch Hill perform on the AAU circuit at the Nike EYBL Tournament.

His commitment is important for a number of reasons, namely that when Williams wants a player as badly as he wanted Hill, it means something. Those “real dudes” in the past have included Vander Blue and Darius Johnson-Odom, both of whom are playing for roster spot in NBA camps this month.

But more than that, Hill’s commitment may signal a changing of the guard in terms of Marquette’s philosophy. For the first time in five seasons Marquette will be an interior-oriented team, with forwards Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner and center Chris Otule building the foundation of a team expected to compete for a second straight Big East championship.

But at season’s end, all three players will have exhausted their eligibility, leaving only will-be junior Steve Taylor Jr. and will-be senior Jameel McKay in the frontcourt. Marquette has one scholarship remaining in the 2014 class and the roster theoretically could look different a year from now than it’s shaping up right now, but the general consensus is that Marquette will install a three-guard offense in 2014.

Williams told Paint Touches at Friday’s media day that next year’s roster will undergo a transformation like it did in 2010, when he brought in a recruiting class that included Davante Gardner, Jae Crowder and Blue. Even if Marquette can secure a forward/center with that last scholarship, or if it can secure a transfer in the coming weeks (or a hardship waiver who can play immediately) the style this year’s team plays with should look far different next season.

Hill is a player Williams believes can contribute right away — that’s part of the “real dude” shtick: upside is important, but Day 1 contributions are key.

Marquette isn’t shallow at shooting guard, as Todd Mayo will be a senior and Jajuan Johnson, who drew rave reviews at media day and will be a significant contributor this season as a freshman, will be an experienced sophomore. But if Marquette utilizes a three-guard offense, it will need depth and scorers.

Think back two years ago when Marquette had Johnson-Odom, Blue and Mayo on the wing to rotate in with Junior Cadougan at the point; at times Mayo took over point-guard duties, with Johnson-Odom and Blue playing on the wings. That rotation could become Mayo, Johnson and Hill next season, with combo guard Duane Wilson — now a freshman — rotating in with Derrick Wilson and potentially John Dawson at the point.

Hill averaged an astonishing 33 points per game last season and has accumulated more than 2,000 points in three high-school seasons. He’ll need to prove his worth on the defensive end, but Hill is a player who can contribute right away to the expected three-guard offense Marquette’s roster will force it to play next season.

Hill’s stock dropped among the recruiting experts this past season, but his stock on Williams’ “real dude” chart continued to rise at the exact same time. That should mean plenty given the head coach’s track record. It’s easy to think the world of brand-new recruits and go over best-case scenarios about how he’ll play as a freshman, but Hill fills a role Marquette needed. Expect to see Hill play a significant role next season as a freshman, just the way Williams wanted.

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