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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hill Rules Court, Moves From Prodigy to Pro

DURHAM, North Carolina -- On the surface, there is little different about Grant Hill these days. Just as he did as a Duke freshman, he still can finish a fast break with a thundering dunk. Just as he did as a sophomore and junior, he fits comfortably into a complementary or starring role.


But go below the surface. There you can see the transformation, from prodigy to soon-to-be pro, from blue-chip talent to perhaps the best all-around college basketball player in the country. There you can see the personal maturation process at work, from a shy, naive suburban teenager to a friendly, yet hardened, young adult.


"I'm so much different than I was when I first got here," Hill said one day last week, sitting in an office at Cameron Indoor Stadium.


It took two injuries -- a badly sprained ankle as a sophomore, a broken bone in his foot as a junior -- as well as the departure of point guard Bobby Hurley after last season, to help turn the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Hill from one of the most spectacular players in the college game to one of the most cerebral. "I can probably count the number of dunks he's had this season on one hand," said his father, Calvin, a former All-Pro football player for the Dallas Cowboys.


And it took one disturbing off-court incident -- having his apartment broken into and his car stolen last spring by people he considered friends -- to make Hill recognize that he was not a typical college student, maybe not even a typical college athlete. "I began to realize that a person in my position can't trust just anybody," said Hill.


But it is his understanding of the game, as well as human nature, that has allowed Hill to turn what had the makings of a disappointing senior year into a thoroughly enjoyable one. And it has allowed the Blue Devils to forget that they were not supposed to be contenders for a national championship.


Going into Wednesday night's game against Maryland in College Park, Maryland, Hill has become the most dominant player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Not by scoring more points, or grabbing more rebounds. Not by making more assists or blocking more shots. But by doing enough of each -- as well as playing the toughest defense in the ACC -- to help Duke become the most consistent team in an otherwise inconsistent league.


"They've adapted to Grant," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his Blue Devils, who have a 21-3 overall record (11-3 in the ACC), a No. 2 national ranking and first place in the ACC nearly locked up.


Krzyzewski gives credit to Hill and fellow seniors Tony Lang and Marty Clark. "The three of them have produced a nice environment," he said.


Hill, though, is clearly the leader, and is clearly leading the Blue Devils with his 17 points per game and 5.2 assists, as well as 6.6 rebounds. While Lang has taken over more of a scoring role than during his first three years, and Clark has given the team an emotional lift coming off the bench, it is Hill who seems to do everything. It began when he was moved from small forward to point guard with the graduation of Hurley, the team's four-year starter and the NCAA's all-time assists leader.


"His versatility sets him apart from a number of players," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "When you have a very good senior point guard leave, most teams would struggle. When you ask who's the leader of the Duke team this year, his name jumps out at you."