By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — He was committed to Mike Anderson and the Arkansas Razorbacks for nearly three years, and within a matter of weeks Justice Hill went from signing his national letter of intent with the Hogs to officially joining the program. Hill (5-11, point guard, Little Rock Christian Academy) inked with Arkansas on Wednesday, Nov. 14 — the first day of the national early signing period — and after making the trip to Fayetteville on New Year’s Day, Hill will settle in as a Razorback today as he takes his physical and moves into a dormitory.
“I do my physical Wednesday morning around 8 o’clock, and then I’ll move into my dorm Wednesday, sometime around noon or something like that.”
Hill, who put up video-game numbers in 2018 quarterbacking the football Warriors to the 5A state title that ended Pulaski Academy’s four-year hold as reigning state champs, graduated from LRCA in December and decided to forgo his high school senior season of basketball to join the Razorbacks early. Even during football season, Hill made time for the gym to work on his basketball game, and he escalated those efforts once football season ended a few weeks ago.
“I stayed a little bit in the gym during football season, as much as I could,” said Hill, who was recently named 2018 Gatorade Arkansas High School Football Player of the Year. “And then right when football season ended, of course, I got a few good workouts in … Main thing is just to get my conditioning back into basketball shape.”
Hill said he’s eager to join his new Razorbacks teammates, a group that includes some familiar faces in Hill’s former teammates with the Joe Johnson Arkansas Hawks — freshmen Isaiah Joe of Fort Smith, Desi Sills of Jonesboro, and Ethan Henderson of Little Rock Parkview.
“We’re still real young,” Hill said. “I’m just glad I get to come in at the mid-year, before my actual freshman year, to get an extra year of knowing their game styles and how they like to play.”
Although he plans to begin his freshman season of actually playing in games in 2019-20, Hill confirmed the door is not entirely closed on him playing with the Hogs this season.
“I’m eligibile right when I get up there, I’m just not really on scholarship yet until May,” Hill said. “So, if I play it’ll be up to the staff and if they want to put me on scholarship right now, right away or not.”
Asked if he’d be ready if called upon, and if he’d welcome the opportunity to play in the open court with and facilitate for Hogs’ sophomore center Daniel Gafford — who’s expected to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft after the current season — Hill did not hesitate when offering up his answer.
“Definitely,” he said. “Yeah, no doubt. I need all that.”
Hill’s coach with the Hawks, Bill Ingram, believes Hill can help Arkansas this season.
“The Hogs could use a creator with all of his skills on both ends of the floor NOW,” Ingram said in a Twitter tweet dated Dec. 29.
As for a potential career as a Razorback football player, Hill said that is not a priority at this time.
“We’ll see how that plays (out), but definitely not the first year,” Hill said. “I’m going up there to focus on my basketball game and see what I can do coming in early and help the team out. If something happens in the future (with football), I’ll look forward to doing that.”
Hill is an explosive, facilitator-first point guard who can legitimately play at all three levels because of his plus-leaping ability that allows him to finish above the rim. Hill’s use of stop-and-go bursts as a ball-handler and penetrator make him tough to defend, and defensively he was arguably the best on-ball defender in Arkansas on the high school level. He excelled as one of the best facilitators and defenders on the nationally competitive Adidas Gauntlet grassroot spring/summer basketball circuit while playing with the Hawks as he was consistently among the assist and steal leaders on the circuit in 2018, and he was second on the Hawks in scoring.
Linked below are a couple of Hill’s workout highlights from Monday night in Little Rock …