Danny Hill has been a pleasant surprise for the Bastrop Rams this season. Even to himself.
If there is one player who epitomizes the 2017-18 Bastrop Rams, it would be Danny Hill.
A 6-0 senior forward, Hill stands out as an over-achiever among a team filled with over-achievers.
Hill isn't supposed to be a force in the paint nor is he supposed to be a big scorer. Heck, he isn't even supposed to be a starter. Yet, he exemplifies the Rams' unofficial team motto, "Find a Way."
"Danny Hill has been a pleasant surprise for us," Bastrop coach Theabury Odom said. "He plays much bigger than his size."
Even the unassuming Hill is shocked that he has become one of the team's core players. Going into the season, he was just hoping to get some minutes off the bench.
"I was just expecting to be a role player," Hill said. "I wasn't expecting to contribute to the scoring. I thought I would be more of a sixth man. I was just hoping I could come in and grab a couple of rebounds."
Hill was neither surprised nor insulted when he started the season in a reserve role.
With the Rams down to eight players due to illness and injuries going into the Big E Classic at Rayville over the Christmas holidays, Hill was inserted into the starting five. Although the Rams lost all three games in the tournament, Hill turned out to be a permanent installment in the starting lineup.
It is often the role of a sixth man to bring short bursts of energy to the court. Hill, however, can — and usually does — sustain the high energy level for 32 minutes.
"Danny has a fearless, tenacious attitude toward the game," Odom said. "His play has helped our other guys, young and old. Our young guys can look at Danny and see that you don't have to be that big to play the post."
Hill's rebounding technique isn't exactly textbook.
"I really don't box out," Hill said.
But he is relentless under the boards.
"I just find a way," Hill said. "I just try to slide in and get the ball. On offense, I try to position myself to score."
Basically, Hill has willed himself into becoming a strong rebounder.
"Danny does all the dirty work around the basket," Odom said. "He does a great job of rebounding on the offensive glass and the defensive glass."
Though almost always at a height disadvantage in the paint, Hill's versatility often evens out the matchup.
"We can use Danny at the post and we can bring him away from the basket," Odom said. "He normally shoots the ball well from the 3-point arc, which adds another dimension to his game. He gives us multiple options. He can play the 3, the 4 and even the 5 if we need him to."
Having only recently moved into the starting lineup, Hill appreciates the smallest perks that come with his new role.
"When they call my name in the lineup, that gets me going," Hill said. "Now that I am getting more minutes, I can get into the flow of the game better."
Upon having their record drop to 6-7 after the Rayville Tournament, the Rams regrouped to win 13 of their final 14 regular season games. Looking back, the mid-season adversity may have been a turning point.
"Once we got everybody back, we got refocused," Hill said.
From Hill's viewpoint, one game stands out. Trailing 50-44 against Carroll on Jan. 2, the Rams rallied for a stunning 51-50 victory. Hill scored the game's final five points on a three-point play and a game-winning layup with 9.2 seconds remaining.
"When we played Carroll and came back at the end, that's when we really started to believe in ourselves," Hill said. "I can never remember us beating Carroll."
Hill doesn't remember the Rams last district championship, either. He was barely walking in 2003. From scanning the walls of the gym every day in practice, Hill wasn't surprised to learn of the 15-year void between district titles.
"I knew it had been awhile because I don't see too many banners on the wall," Hill said. "All of the banners on the wall are for the girls. It kind of motivates you."
Hill is hoping the Rams' success this season will inspire future teams.
"With us winning district, I feel like it is going to get the boys going and playing with a purpose," Hill said. "They just have to work together like we do. When I come back and watch them play, that's what I expect to see. Whatever we accomplish this year, I want to see the future teams go further than us."
When speaking of future teams, Hill is including the immediate future.
"Jordan Rabun, Keyshawn Scott and Denterrius McHenry are going to have to play at a higher level next year, but I feel like they can do it." Hill said.
Hill is hoping the future teams will follow the Rams' current model. To a man, the Rams are quick to admit they aren't loaded with pure talent. But the name of the game is 5-on-5, not 1-on-1.
"Other teams have had more talent than us, but we have a special bond," Hill said. "If somebody's open, we pass them the ball."
Home for the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the Rams tangle with New Orleans McDonogh #35 on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
"I really don't know too much about McDonogh #35 except they are tall and long. They have a good guard and a good center," Hill said. "At the end of the day, we have to play hard. When you play hard, good things happen."
Hill should know.