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Handyman: Arizona’s Solomon Hill playing his best basketball

Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill has been valuable battling inside for points and rebounds. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The term “jack of all trades” isn’t always used in a positive light, especially when it is followed by “master of none.”

But that first term applies to Arizona Wildcats junior forward Solomon Hill, and not in an unkind way. He is averaging a team-best 12.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and he also leads the team with 3.1 assists per game.

“Solomon is clearly playing better than he ever has,” coach Sean Miller said. “I think he is settling in to who he is as a player.”

And that player is someone who can contribute a variety of ways.

“When Solomon is at his best, he’s the jack of all trades in a very positive way for us,” Miller said.

“He’s an excellent passer. Recently, what he has done a good job of, in addition to making clever plays, is he has cut back on his turnovers.

“In the past, although he has always helped us move the ball and make good decisions, once in a while he made bad decisions.”

Hill had eight turnovers in the first two games of the season. He has only nine in the past five games. Arizona plays host to NAU on Saturday.

Before the season, Miller feared that Hill might feel pressure to score to make up for the absence of Derrick Williams, the second pick in the NBA Draft. Hill does lead the team in scoring, but three others — Jesse Perry (11.1), Kyle Fogg (11.0) and Nick Johnson (11.0) are close behind, so it’s not like this team has a clear go-to guy.

But Hill has been consistent, scoring in double figures in five consecutive games. He has four games with at least nine rebounds, while often playing a power forward position at an undersized 6-foot-6. Miller said he likely will stick with the small three-guard lineup he used at New Mexico State on Tuesday night.

“Solomon is very comfortable at the 4,” Miller said.

“You can make the case that against some of the teams on our schedule, that can hurt us. But one of the things that is difficult for the other team is they have to match up with him when he’s on offense at the 4.”

Hill said that is where some of those assists are coming from; he had seven at New Mexico State. Once he beats a bigger man off the dribble, he has options to score and pass.

“As far as being aggressive in the first half, I’ve come a long way,” Hill said.

“I’ve shown strides of getting to the basket and creating for myself in the first half. I think I’m falling off in the second half, being a completely different person.”

He said he might be overly aware of getting everyone else involved on offense in the second half of games, but he did note the scoring ability of Fogg, Johnson, Jordin Mayes and Josiah Turner at the guard spots.

“That’s why I’m not heavy about my intensity about scoring in the second half,” Hill said. “I know I have guards who can go out and score on any given night.”

Miller said this season continues the natural progression for Hill.

Hill started 21 games as a freshman, averaging 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He started all 38 games last season, many under the greatest of pressure, as Arizona won the Pac-10 title and advanced to the Elite Eight. Hill averaged 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Now, more improvement as a junior.

Miller said Hill’s 3-point shooting percentage (27.8, 5 of 18) will come around as he starts taking better shots. But the coach said he was pleased that Hill has gotten to the free throw line 37 times in seven games.

“I think what you see is very established player,” Miller said. “What I hope is that November is just a sign of things to come with him.”

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