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USC to face one who got away: Arizona's Solomon Hill

USC BASKETBALL

Forward from Fairfax High committed to the Trojans before switching to the Wildcats, with whom he has turned into an all-around force.

February 26, 2013|By Diane Pucin

It was a vision former USC coach Tim Floyd had. To put Derrick Williams, Lamont Jones and Solomon Hill together and win an NCAA title.

Then Floyd left the Trojans in the middle of a scandal involving the football program and basketball star O.J. Mayo, and Williams, Hill and Jones landed at Arizona.

Williams became a national star with the Wildcats. Jones played two seasons in Tucson before transferring to Iona in order to be closer to his home in Harlem. Hill is still at Arizona and making life nice for Coach Sean Miller.

Hill, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who graduated from Fairfax High with a ceremony at USC's Galen Center, has started 78 consecutive games and is second on the team with averages of 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds.

He will be back at the Galen Center on Wednesday night when 11th-ranked Arizona (23-4, 11-4 in conference play) meets USC (12-15, 7-7) in a Pac-12 Conference game.

"Any time against USC it's just special," Hill said.

Hill had given a verbal commitment to USC before Floyd left, a situation Hill called "the business aspect of the game, something I couldn't control."

He said landing at Arizona brought him to a great situation, though he does sometimes get nostalgic about what might have been.

"It could have been a great team," Hill said. "It could have been special."

Miller says nothing but great things about Hill.

"He is the epitome of a self-starter," Miller said. "He's our best practice player. Every year he's added an element to his game. As a freshman, he could barely make a three-pointer; this year against Washington State in the first half alone, he made six. He has 8% body fat.

"Not that I'm happy what happened to coach Floyd, but we benefited at a time of great need. One of the things we had to offer was playing time."

Bob Cantu, USC's interim coach, said Hill presents many problems.

Cantu recruited Hill at Fairfax and said he doesn't see many weaknesses.

"He's got great size for his position, he can shoot the three, he can drive, he can work the post, he does a great job at the foul line, he can handle the ball in transition," Cantu said.

And, oh yeah, Cantu said, he has improved his body every year.

Cantu, too, sounded nostalgic about one who got away.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter: @mepucin

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