By Kevin Wilson
By Kevin Wilson
PNT Staff Writer
CLOVIS — Under other circumstances, the sight of Morgan Hill in a Clovis jersey would be enough to scare her coaches at Portales High.
This summer, she has their blessing.
Hill, a 6-foot, 145-pound post, is playing with the 14-and-under Clovis Wildcats team at this year’s state Amateur Athletic Union championships.
She and fellow sophomore-to-be Megan Kabrick are expected to be a foundation for Portales basketball for the next three years. So when Hill walks into Rock Staubus Gym wearing Clovis purple, she’s a natural target of derision from Portales classmates wearing red Ram jerseys.
“It’s supposed to say, ‘Rams,’” Sabrina Villanueva says to Hill with a smile, while using her own jersey to gesture the point. Villaneuva is part of the 13-and-under Portales Rams team.
Hill, about 30 minutes away from playing her second game of the day with the Wildcats, has learned to brush off the criticism and the rivalry that naturally comes from cities less than 20 minutes apart.
“At first last year it was (strange), but it’s different because it’s my AAU team,” Hill said. “It’s not for Clovis — it’s just for my AAU team.”
It took Hill a while to realize that, almost long enough to keep her from joining the team more than a year ago. However, she was encouraged from all angles — from Portales coach Brenda Gomez, Clovis coach Miles Watters and her grandfather, former Eastern New Mexico University women’s coach Wayne Moore.
All parties figured the experience would help Hill down the road, and her early March performance in Albuquerque seemed to prove the point. Hill played sparingly for most of the season, but emerged as a defensive stopper in Portales’ Class 3A semifinal win over Bloomfield and the subsequent state title clincher over Lovington.
By all standards, Hill has nothing to apologize for, as most AAU teams are cross-pollinated. Several teams have players from three or four different cities, just like the Wildcats. Hill is one of two non-Clovis players on the squad — high-scoring Silver City guard Talmai Aguirre is the other — but her coach and teammate value Hill’s scoring and rebounding numbers more than her ZIP code.
“We need the help,” said Wildcat Brittany Blackmon. “We want to win state and nationals, so we want anybody that will help us.”
State winners in each division qualify for their respective AAU national tournament. The 14-and-under championships are scheduled for July 11-19 in Clarksville, Tenn.
Blackmon said she and other players knew Hill when Marshall and Portales would play in junior high games, and she was a post they’d like to have as a teammate during AAU play.
“Our main objective is to help people (become part of the team),” said Wildcats coach Regina Downing, “and the kids want to play.”
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Hometown loyalty will always be a staple of AAU tournaments. One such example is the 13-and-under Portales Ram group. Danny Terry ended up coaching the Rams after requests from former Portales City League players and their parents.
Terry is the first to admit that his team is not one of stars, but instead a cohesive group that originates from the same eighth-grade class. Terry said parents have helped him accomplish his No. 1 goal — to give his girls confidence and let the basketball take care of itself.
“Once you sell them on what they can do, they can overcome any obstacle,” said Terry, who years ago took over a City League team first coached by Morgan’s mother, Debbie Hill. “They leave their hearts out on the floor and they are a close-knit group of individuals that play very well on the basketball court.”