Hilliard Begins At Nova Next Week
College is right around the corner for class of 2011 Villanova-signee Darrun Hilliard. In fact, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound shooting guard out of Liberty (PA) will begin classes at VU before he even graduates high school.
"Yeah, I'm gonna be down there the 31st, but I start classes the 1st," Hilliard said. "I'm still in school right now. I'm taking finals and tomorrow is my last day of finals, but I actually graduate on the 6th. So, I'll go to Nova and then come back for graduation and then go back to Nova."
Hilliard went on to add, "Most people would just go in July, but I just wanna get a head start."
As is the case for many soon-to-be college students, this time of transition is bittersweet for Hilliard.
"It's kinda sad, but that's-you got to do what you got to do is what I say," Hilliard said. "You graduate from high school and you gotta go right back up to class. It's good, I'm not complaining at all. Of course I'm gonna miss some people down here, but it's my life and I'll do anything I gotta do to make my dreams come true, so to say."
Hilliard is not sure yet who he will be rooming with when he gets to Nova, but is expecting several newcomers to be there for the first summer session.
"I think Tyrone [Johnson and] I think Markus [Kennedy] is too," Hilliard said. "I think JP [JayVaughn Pinkston] is too. So, I think all of us will be down there except for Ash [Yacoubou]."
There is one fellow class of 2011 signee with whom Hilliard has developed the best relationship.
"Well, I'd probably say Tyrone because I hung-me and him [have] been down there at the same time mostly and I hung out with him more than any of the other guys, so I'd say Ty," Hilliard said. "I know more about Ty than I know about Markus or Ash. I don't fully know Ty, but I talk to him more than I talk to Markus or Ash."
There also a few players already on the Villanova team that Hilliard knows quite well, including one in particular.
"Probably [Dominic] Cheek, I'm always-when I'm down there I'm always with Cheek, stay with Cheek," Hilliard said. "So I'd say Dom and then after Dom probably Maalik [Wayns], Maalik and Zeke [Isaiah Armwood]. I probably got the strongest relationship with those three out of anybody."
Hilliard has been in touch with the Villanova coaching staff, including head coach Jay Wright.
"Just work hard, just be that killer, be a killer in all assets in the game, offense and defense," Hilliard said of what the coaches have been telling him. "Of course they're gonna want me to come in and shoot the ball real good and I've been working on that. I've been talking to coach Wright and he wants me to work on [things like a] one-dribble pull-up . . . and I've just being working on all aspects of my game . . . If he wants me to defends the best player, that's what I'll do. [I am] just working on all aspects of my game."
What one thing in particular does Hilliard feel he has to work on the most to make an impact as a freshman?
"Just being able to-to the other guy, [get] the upperclassmen to have confidence in me, to kick the ball out or give it to me on the fast break because they know I'll make the right decision," Hilliard said. "Just, for them to have confidence in me because I know that I have confidence in myself. So hopefully they'll have confidence in me . . . to even guard the best player."
Hilliard is coming off of a season in which he averaged around 20 points per game and led his team to the state quarterfinals. He compares his game to one of the top performers in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
"That's hard, I was really looking at-I really like James Harden's game, James Harden from the Thunder," Hilliard said. "He's very smart on the offensive end, he can come off screens [and] he can shoot the ball real well. He's not as big, I mean he's not as tall, and he's probably stronger, but my offensive game I'd probably relate to James Harden because he can basically do everything pretty good on the offensive end."
Hilliard, who is not unsure what his major will be at VU, discussed what he is most looking forward to about college.
"Just being able to earn everything that I get," he said. "I know coming in I'm not gonna be the most highly rated and I got the feeling that people are gonna count me out and I'm excited to just prove people wrong. I could say and just grow up and become a man, so just prove people wrong and grow up and become more responsible and become a man. I know that coach Wright will . . . turn me into a great man and he'll teach me things on and off the court, so I'll have to grow up pretty quickly when I go up there. So, I'm pretty excited about that."
The athletic, skilled wing went on to discuss his goals for his collegiate career as a Villanova Wildcat.
"Just become the best Villanova basketball player I can be, that's all I can tell you so far," Hilliard said. "I'm supposed to be sitting down with my coach to set goals. I wish you'd have called me a week later and I probably could have told you, but for now just become the best Villanova player I can be and I promise you I can become that."
Villanova struggled down the stretch last year and Hilliard offered some ways that he and the other newcomers will be able to help get the Wildcats back on the right track.
"Well none of us have really played in Big East game, so I can't really tell you in how everything is gonna go, but I just tell you that all five of us are real excited to go to Villanova and to prove people wrong [with] a clean slate," Hilliard said. "[We are going] to work day in and day out and to give coach Wright everything we got . . . I think we'll be more defensive-minded . . . [and] I think we'll get stops and I think that will translate to a W."
Hilliard gave one final message before getting off the phone, and it was one that should bring smiles to the members of Nova Nation.
"Villanova here I come, that's all I can say," Hilliard said. "I can promise I will become the best Villanova basketball player I can be. I will become the best Villanova basketball player I can be. That's all I can say right now."