April 23, 2010
|HILL TO ENTER IBCA HALL OF FAME
In many ways, Northern Illinois Hall of Fame women's basketball player E.C. Hill
defined Huskie women's hoops in the early 1990's. This Saturday, April 23, the two-time All-American will be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
A rising prospect by the time she was a teenager, Hill's road to college basketball started early.
"My first recruiting letter (came) in seventh grade," Hill said. "I'll never forget, it was from Central Michigan University. I didn't know what that was. I just saw a logo and school, and was like 'I got a letter.'"
Hill's basketball talents landed her at Whitney Young, one of the most esteemed high schools in Chicago.
"(Whitney Young) was the place to be," Hill said. "Every parent wanted their kid at that particular school. I was coming in with all this recognition, so I felt a lot of pressure. Every time I stepped on the floor I had to perform."
Hill's play drew the attention of many of the elite Division I universities in the country, vying for her basketball services. By her senior year, she was ranked the No 2 player in the nation, and the top guard in the country.
"Then there were not as many (recruiting) rules," Hill said. "The phone was ringing off the hook, and I had to change my number. It became really crazy."
Northern Illinois, then coached by Jane Albright, was one of Hill's suitors.
"When I was being recruited, I never heard of the 'mid-major' or the 'major' schools," Hill explained. "It was always just a school is recruiting you, a university is recruiting you. Me coming to Northern, (nationally) it was a big deal. For me, I didn't think it was."
Now, nearly two decades later, Hill firmly believes she made the right decision to come to Northern Illinois.
"When I think back I think I made a good decision for myself as far as where to go to school," Hill said. "I had a lot of different opportunities to go to different places. Some people would ask 'why did you go the Northern?' What people don't realize is that at this time, Northern was ranked 15th in the country, led the nation in scoring, and had NCAA appearances. So, why not go to a top-25 program?"
After sitting out her first year due to NCAA eligibility rules, Hill helped the Huskies to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. In her first, Hill lifted the underdog Huskies to an overtime win over three-time national champions Louisiana Tech.
To this day, Hill credits basketball for her education and her career, which included eight years professionally and at her current job on the bench at NIU.
"There's no way my parents could afford to send me to school and pay," Hill said. "Basketball is the vehicle that gave me the opportunity to get education free, play professionally, pay some bills, and to this day basketball is still paying my bills."
And though it's been 16 years since Hill last suited up in the Cardinal and Black, she's still recognized as one of the greatest to ever play in DeKalb and in the Second City. When Hill received a letter informing her she was to be inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame, her reaction was first non-chalant, then humbled.
"I was like 'oh, okay,'" she said. "I didn't tell anybody, I didn't think about it. Then I (realized) this is a big deal.
"You're officially old when your in the hall of fame," Hill continued with a smile.
Hill's six-year old daughter Asia has heard only stories of her mother's hardwood wizardry.
"I'm more excited for my daughter to see (the induction), and see how she reacts to it," Hill said. "Because she never saw me play."
After all the classes, buses, games, all the assists, baskets, wins and losses, Hill is grateful for the coming recognition.
"When the state of Illinois, the state itself wants to recognize you, it's a big deal," Hill said. "(It's a great) opportunity that my child can come back and see it, or my family can come back and see my little plaque on the wall. Making history is very impressive, so I'm honored."
The IBCA Hall of Fame will be Hill's third. She was also inducted into the Chicago Public League Hall of Fame, and the NIU Hall of Fame. Her number, 23, is retired at Whitney Young.