Hills Keep it in the Family

 By Romando Dixson

p.j. and tayler hill

Tayler Hill, a highly touted freshman guard for Ohio State’s basketball team, received her first scholarship offer when she was in eighth grade.

She went on to garner countless other offers as she put together arguably the greatest career in Minnesota high school basketball history.

But Ohio State, it turns out, held an invaluable recruiting piece.

P.J. Hill, Tayler’s older brother and now a point guard for the Buckeyes, enjoyed a fine prep career, too. After high school, he played a year for Midland Junior College in Texas. He transferred to Ohio State in 2007.

Tayler Hill was a household name throughout her home region by that point, and updates about her recruitment were always big news.

“I put in a good word for Ohio State,” P.J. said. “I think the biggest thing I told her is, ‘You want to go somewhere you’re going to get an opportunity to play, and the coach is going to let you develop as a player.’”

Tayler started playing varsity basketball in eighth grade and led the state in scoring that season. She eventually scored more points (3,894) than any boy or girl in Minnesota prep basketball history and led Minneapolis South High School to a state championship as a senior.

Tayler, a McDonald’s All-American, finally narrowed her list of colleges to Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio State. 

“I think he wanted me [at Ohio State] just as much as the coaches did,” Tayler said of her older brother. “But once I came down to my last three schools, last two schools, he could tell that I was really having a tough time. . . . He was just like, ‘Whatever you do, I support you and you know the family’s going to support you.’”

When Tayler chose Ohio State, it seemed the ideal decision. She liked that coach Jim Foster played an up-tempo style and recruited players from different areas who had different styles of play. And, she was reunited with P.J. 

The two had been close growing up. They once played on the same 10-and-under AAU basketball team. He was 10. She was seven.

During one game—a close one at that—he told her to run out early on a shot by the other team. He grabbed the rebound, and instead of heaving it to her—because he knew she wouldn’t catch it—he rolled it  down the court. She reeled it in and made a lay-up over a boy on the other team.

After that, parents started to complain that Tayler was embarrassing the boys and needed to be on a girls team. She was allowed to finish the season before she was prohibited from playing with the boys.

Still, P.J. and Tayler spent a lot of time together on the court. “Whenever we were at the gym, he always taught me what he learned,” Tayler said. “It was hard for me when my brother went off to college because that’s who I turned to, even outside of basketball.” 

P.J. was “always honest,” she said. “He would tell me the negatives [of my game], tell me how to fix them, and after that he would tell me what I did positive. . . . Hearing it from a sibling, it’s better than hearing it from your mom or dad.”

P.J. started working with Tayler as soon as she arrived for summer classes. 

“She thought she was working hard before, but there’s another level to working hard,” he said. “So the first day she got down here, I worked out with her, and she couldn’t make it through the workout.”

Her heart was beating faster than it ever had. She was more exhausted than she had ever been.

“I was like, ‘You know what, little sis, you sit down, and I’ll do your part, and I’ll do my part,’” P.J. said. “And I showed her right there how hard you have to work.

“She’s finally realizing it takes more than just skill to get to where she wants to get to,” he said. “She realizes that, and now she’s working hard in everything.”