A little over a week into January, Julian Hill was listed as the top rebounder from Cumberland County Schools on the stats at ncprepsports.net with an average of 10.1 per game.
That might not seem to be an incredible accomplishment, but considering how far Hill has come in the last two years, it’s almost a leap over Mount Everest.
The 6-foot-4-inch senior forward has battled back from two surgeries on his right knee. This is his first season on a basketball court in two years.
He had to miss the first two games of the current season, not getting clearance from his doctor to return to full competition until Nov. 18.
Regardless of all those challenges, one person who never doubted he’d return was Trojan boys’ head basketball coach Jimmy Peaden.
“I’ve never seen a kid that has his will power as far as getting back from not one but two surgeries,’’ Peaden said. “He’s put in the work. He’s not satisfied at all with where he is.’’
Where he is, despite still not being 100 percent in basketball shape, is averaging a double-double almost nightly for the Trojans while often pulling double coverage from the defense.
The toughest part for Hill this season, he said, was realizing he would not be healthy in time to return to his role as quarterback on the Trojan football team. About mid-season during football, he sat down with his family, his doctor and his physical therapist to plot strategy for what remained.
“We said basketball was going to be the goal,’’ Hill said. That forced a change in the rehabilitation therapy he was taking.
“Basketball requires a lot of jumping, a lot of explosiveness,’’ he said. “We did a lot of jumping activities, a change of direction.’’
Despite all the personal work he’s put in, Hill doesn’t like to take credit for his rebounding success so far.
“When the entire team boxes out, it works for whoever gets the ball,’’ Hill said.
There is still a lot of basketball to be played this season, and Hill said that is what Peaden has been preaching to the Trojan team.
“We have to stay together, even through the downs,’’ Hill said. “We have to stay tougher every day and better ourselves for the next game.
“It’s like a big brotherhood. The guys know it, and the coaches feel it. I think we’ll turn it around really soon.’’
Photo: Julian Hill