In the realm of sport, many athletes aspire to be the premier figure on their team. Hard work, dedication, and sacrifice all culminate into one being the best player that they can be. Letâ€™s be honest, who wouldnâ€™t enjoy the limelight? The attention and credibility swirling around one person can be exhilarating. While on the rise to stardom, junior Jaalam Hill responds with, â€œIâ€™m not going to worry about all the hype, because I am not really into all the hype and stuff. Iâ€™m just worried about playing my game and thereâ€™s nothing else I can do. I have to play and stay humble. Like my mom says, I have to stay humble and do my part. If I do my part, then those other guys will soon fall in and do their part and we will have a great team.â€
Jaalam Hill is a 6â€™5â€ forward for the Waggener Wildcats and is anticipating being the leader and primary spokesman for his team come next season. â€œI have to be the hardest worker. That comes with a lot of heart and dedication, and I am ready to own up to that. I feel like Iâ€™m doing a pretty good job right now, and I will have to be even more vocal than what I already am, and work even harder. I have to keep progressing and keep pushing.â€
The Wildcats feed off the energy and versatility of Hill. In the 2014-15 season, he is averaging around 17 points, seven rebounds, and one and a half blocks. As a result, Waggener has won nine of its first 14 games. Living with humility, Hill doesnâ€™t take all the credit for his teamâ€™s achievements, but understands that chemistry has been the focal point to a winning record. As a young leader, he has been able to connect with his teammates, both on and off the court. â€œI definitely like to hang out with those guys because those guys are the ones who have been there from the beginning. If I have a relationship with them off the court, then I know I will have one on the court; which will lead to wins. We love to win.â€
Under head coach Bryan Oâ€™Neil, the most important lesson Hill has learned from him is, â€œDefinitely discipline, and to go hard no matter what. No matter how bad guys are down or anything; play hard and play smart.â€ Jaalam strives to play hard everyday he gets the chance to touch a basketball. On the court he models his game after Scottie Pippen. â€œI love his game and everything about his game. I feel like I could be like him one day.â€ Off the court, Hill has mentors who have greatly invested into his life. When asked who he models himself after, he said, â€œIt would have to be either my dad or coach Deion Lee who I have actually played AAU for, for sometime now. He is a real good role model and father figure. If I didnâ€™t have my dad, he would be someone I would go to.â€
Aside from NBA stars and coaches, Hillâ€™s life has been impacted by his family. â€œEveryone always says, â€˜Without family youâ€™re nothingâ€™. They have really helped me a lot. My mom, sometimes she works a couple jobs. She has picked up another job for me. We went to Vegas this summer [for basketball], and it was some money that needed to be there. Iâ€™m glad I have my family.â€
Academic achievement is believed to pave the way for Hill. He understands that hustle on the court comes second to hustle in the classroom. â€œAcademics are first. You canâ€™t do anything without the academics. You will not be able to make it into college without the academics, so Iâ€™m actually pretty serious about my academics and my grades. I try to study so that I can keep my grades up. Iâ€™ve actually been on honor role for most of my years at Waggener.â€
At age two, Jaalam believed in love at first sight once he saw a basketball. It has transformed his life in ways, stating that, â€œI think it has really helped my attitude. Basketball helps me to relieve stress and get my mind off everything.â€ He aspires to be a professional basketball player one day, but when itâ€™s all said and done, his heart will always be attuned to the game. â€œAfter basketball, it is what God has planned for me to do with basketball. Iâ€™d like to go to college and study sports medicine, and then be a sports analyst on ESPN. That is pretty nice.â€
By Randy Whetstone Jr.