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Versatile junior Jalen Hill steps up game for Clark

Updated December 26, 2017 - 5:39 pm

At 6-foot-7-inches, Clark junior Jalen Hill gets to the basket at will. He’s a voracious rebounder, too. And he’s already the most versatile, disruptive defender in the Las Vegas Valley.

So he doesn’t play anything like his childhood idol, sharpshooting legend Ray Allen.

At least not yet.

Hill has grown into the Chargers’ best all-around player and one of the top wing prospects on the West Coast. Division-I programs like UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and USC are contacting Hill on a regular basis, he said, while confirming scholarship offers from UNLV, Oregon State and Utah, St. John’s and DePaul.

“He may not be scoring sometimes, but he’s rebounding, defending, blocking shots, he passes,” Clark coach Chad Beeten said. “We need him to get a bucket, he gets a bucket. We need him to hit a three to put a dagger in, he hits a three. He just does everything you need to do to win a game. He’s an extremely valuable player.”

And he’s just getting started.

Born in San Jose, California, Hill has spent the last 10 years in Las Vegas learning basketball from his dad, who played in junior college.

He was Clark’s seventh man as a freshman in 2015-16, averaging 4.7 points. He improved last season to average 7.3 points as he continued to develop physically.

“I started getting into weights and stuff, I got bigger and stronger,” Hill said. “I can take contact and get to the rim now. When I was a freshman, I got bumped around a lot.”

Hill played AAU basketball last summer with the Las Vegas Prospects in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League and began receiving attention from colleges, including UNLV, which was the first to extend him a scholarship offer.

Other coaches, intrigued by Hill’s potential, have followed suit by frequenting Chargers games and practices throughout the fall and winter, including UNLV coach Marvin Menzies attending a Clark game during the recent Tarkanian Classic

“I knew it was coming, but I didn’t think it would be this quick,” said Chargers teammate Antwon Jackson, Hill’s best friend. “He wants to be good. He wants to be one of the greatest to play.”

Hill is one of the focal points of Clark’s offense and has responded by averaging a team-high 17.3 points on 70.4 percent shooting during the first month.

He’s a smothering defender capable of guarding nimble perimeter players and beefy interior players. He thinks he’s the best player in the city, too, and he’s working to improve his jump shot — and perhaps one day shoot like Ray Allen.

“I like to be the best player out there,” Hill said. “I don’t know how to explain it … I can do everything.”

Gorman, Clark in top tourney

Bishop Gorman and Clark’s boys basketball teams are playing in the annual Beach Ball Classic, which began on Tuesday in South Carolina.

The Beach Ball Classic is one of the nation’s premier holiday basketball tournaments, drawing teams from across the country. The Gaels, who defeated the Chargers in the Tarkanian Classic championship on Saturday, won the event in 2009 and 2014.

Centennial girls fall twice

Centennial’s girls basketball team, ranked No. 5 in the USA Today Super 25, dropped a pair of games in the Nike Tournament of Champions and will likely fall in the next national poll, which comes out later this week. The Bulldogs lost to Riverdale (Tennessee) and St. John’s College (Washington D.C.).

Centennial (8-2) remains unbeaten against local competition.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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