By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — With the expectations on her and the Portales High girls basketball team, there is a good chance one month from now basketball practice will be the hardest work Morgan Hill does all day as a Portales High senior.
A year from now, basketball practice might be the easiest thing Hill has to do all day.
Hill — a 6-foot-1 center who has played three years for Portales — has verbally committed to the U.S. Naval Academy to play basketball, starting in the fall of 2006.
For Hill, the idea of entering the Navy was something she thought she would “never, ever, ever” consider, but the athletic and educational opportunity was too good to turn down.
“You’re not going to be happy all the time anywhere you go,” Hill said. “This is a really good opportunity, an amazing opportunity.”
Hill made her decision last week, and will later sign a letter of intent to play basketball for the NCAA Division I Patriot League school. Assuming Hill follows through on her commitment, she’ll be the first Portales alum to play Division I basketball since Nate Erdmann, who played at the University of Oklahoma from 1995 to 1997.
What’s just as surprising is that as impressive as Hill’s Portales resume has been — she’s played for two Class 3A state champions and a state runnerup — it wasn’t something the U.S. Naval Academy even knew about.
Instead, it was her participation in the AAU basketball that got Hill discovered. Hill played in a summer AAU tournament in Oregon called the End of the Trail tournament. After the tournament, the Naval Academy contacted a surprised Hill — so surprised she thought her father was joking when he handed her the phone and said the Navy wanted to talk to her.
A phone call became a visit by coach Tom Marryott, who told her he saw a role for her as a rebounder who could run the floor and play defense. Hill said she loves to play defense, but Marryott’s visit still didn’t convince her she wanted to play for the Mids.
A visit to the Annapolis, Md., campus paid off, as she found a group of potential teammates who also never imagined they’d play for a military institution. She ate meals with the basketball team at a dinner table where food was passed around, not in a cafeteria.
“It’s a really good family-type atmosphere,” Hill said of the campus.
As a first-year student, Hill said she would be designated as a “plebe” and would follow much stricter requirements than more seasoned students.
Before becoming a “plebe,” Hill has a season left with the Rams. Portales coach Brenda Gomez feels that it’s part of her job to help Hill be as ready as possible to play for the Mids.
“I definitely think Morgan can rebound for them and she runs the ball very well,” Gomez said. “I don’t think any kid understands the next level, how athletic those girls are on the D-I level. She’s going to have to work really hard, because she’ll be put in a position one-on-one where they can take her away from the basket.”
Hill said she’d still have a commitment with the Navy for five to nine years after she graduates. In this case, a commitment is a job with the military with a good salary and opportunities for advancement.
“I don’t look at it as (being about) the money,” Hill said. “I look at it for the security. I never have to worry about what I’m going to do (after college).”
Now, she’s just got to worry about helping Portales reach its sixth-straight Class 3A title game, and Gomez expects that Hill will be a big part of whatever success Portales has this season.