Minuteman hoop player Matt Hill waits for call of fatherhood
Matt Hill is good at waiting. The junior big man for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has had plenty of experience.
He waited through much of his sophomore year as he battled through rehabilitating his second torn Achilles tendon. He's spent many a game waiting on the Minuteman bench, wondering if coach Derek Kellogg was going to summon him to enter the game.
But this is different. Hill's girlfriend Courtney is pregnant with their first child, a son, and is due today.
"It's exciting, a new experience. It's another chapter in my life," said Hill, who said the news caught them by surprise. "At first it was like 'What?' But my family and her family have been very supportive. I know we're going to be OK."
Hill said he's not nervous yet, but expects to be.
"Probably when I hold him," Hill said smiling.
They've decided to name their son Camden in a nod to his girlfriend's family's baseball allegiance to the Baltimore Orioles who play at Camden Yards.
"My girlfriend's mother came up with it," Hill said. "They're big Oriole fans. (Courtney) went to a game there as a kid. They suggested the name and I liked it."
Camden should arrive pretty soon and until Hill gets the call that Courtney, who lives in Amherst, is ready to give birth his cell phone won't be far from him. For the past few weeks a team manager has had the phone during practices. During games, a manager or a friend keeps it handy. Hill is ready to go when it rings.
Ready is a familiar state for him on the basketball court as well. For the past two years the 6-foot-7 junior from Middletown, Conn., has been the team's No. 3 big man. His minutes are neither consistent nor guaranteed behind Sean Carter and Hashim "Big City" Bailey. Hill has averaged 0.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game.
But when he's played, he's provided solid defense and drew praise from Kellogg for helping slow down St. Bonaventure star Andrew Nicholson in the 78-69 win by UMass at Olean on Jan. 26.
Like almost every Division I player, Hill arrived in college with dreams of stardom. He signed with the Minutemen during the early period of his senior year and promptly tore his Achilles tendon, ending his final high school season before it really got started.
The spring in his legs that once made him a small forward prospect wasn't all the way back when he arrived at UMass. That limited his effectiveness which in turn limited his minutes. He appeared in just five games for former coach Travis Ford.
His sophomore season had barely started when he tore his other Achilles. Against Memphis, he hit the floor and had to be helped off, leaving him with a medical redshirt, more rehab and more waiting.
When he returned for the 2009-10 season, the injuries had robbed him of some of the athleticism that had made him effective on the wing. To have a chance to play, Kellogg told Hill he'd have to reinvent himself as inside player.
From time to time he still thinks about what might have been if he'd stayed healthy, but is glad the injuries didn't cost him his career. "Of course I wonder. Everybody has their ups and downs. You have to live with it. I'm still here," Hill said. "Going through the surgery and the rehab. That was tough times. I had to gain a lot of weight to change positions. It's different. It's a whole different game. But to find a new way to contribute is always a good thing."
He takes pride in his ability to still help the team despite limited minutes.
"I like to be reliable," Hill said. "I do what I can."
Kellogg has appreciated that approach.
"He's been fantastic. He's a good kid. He works hard and comes every day with a good attitude," said Kellogg, who expects Hill to thrive in his new off-the-court role.
"His priorities are in the right order," Kellogg added. "I think he understands the importance of family and being a good person. I think he's going to be a fantastic father."