Portales’ Morgan Hill helps Navy to 16-15 mark

Winning was a way of life for Morgan Hill and Portales High School.

With the 6-foot-1 Hill on board, Portales went 81-28 in four seasons and claimed state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Hill also was a member of two Portales volleyball champions.

The challenges are greater at Navy, which just posted its first winning season in six years, as Hill played a reserve role at power forward.

But Hill sees promise following her junior season. She posted 3.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while averaging 14.9 minutes for the Midshipmen, who went 16-15 and advanced to the second round of the Patriot League Tournament.

Q: How did your time in Portales help prepare you for what you faced at the academy?

A: Of course, college ball is a lot different from high school ball, so I had to transition into that.

Being part of a winning program like Portales (helped). Coach (Brenda) Gomez was a great coach. She helped us learn skills. We worked on drills and perfected those skills.

Q: What about the experience could you not prepare for?

A: Being so far away from home, I couldn’t have ever prepared for that, unless I went to boarding school.

But the quickness of the game is so much different. Also, in college basketball, you can recruit people, and you never know what’s going to happen next year. You never know if you’re going to have a spot. That’s a lot different from high school; you know who’s coming up next year.

Q: What specific leaps do you think you made from your sophomore to junior season?

A: We got a new coach (Stefanie Pemper). She’s a lot different than our coach before. She really works on drills like Coach Gomez did; she works on the fundamentals. I think that helped us as a team.

Q: What goals do you have for senior year?

A: I want to win the Patriot League Tournament. This year, we won our first league tournament game in, I think, eight years. So that’s a step toward getting to the championship game. We want to make it to the NCAA tournament. That would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Q: How is playing for Navy different from other Division-I schools?

A: We have a lot of other time requirements. One of our coaches before — not this year — said “I’d like to be able to pull you into my office to watch film anytime, but you have to go to class.”

It’s almost like an Ivy League education. You have the military on top of that, so you have to go to military formations, you have to go to different military things. We do get out of some of that, being in a varsity sport, but there are some things we can’t get out of.

Q: Have you been able to keep in touch with players you knew from high school, like Aimee Hilburn of Clovis?

A: We were in New York. We played (Hilburn’s team, Texas State) in the first round of a tournament (at the Tyler Ugolyn Columbia Classic, Nov. 21). It was awesome. I hadn’t seen her since high school, and we were close since we played AAU together (Hill scored 10, but Hilburn’s Bobcats claimed the 77-58 win).