Dick Harmon: Late BYU basketball superstar Gary Hill was a tremendous talent long before college

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

Former BYU great Gary Hill. (Courtesy Hill family) Former BYU great Gary Hill. (Courtesy Hill family)

Editor's note: This article is part two of a two-part series. Read part one.

Gary Hill, a former hoopster for the Cougars, was a superstar before he got to BYU. He was one of the most prolific scorers in Utah high school history. His senior year, he averaged more than 30 points a game when there was no 3-point bucket. He started varsity as an eighth-grader for Gunnison. He could post up, run the fast break and finish, pull up with adequate 20-foot range and defend.

“There’s never been a better high school player in Utah than Gary Hill,” the late Pete Witbeck, Hill's college trainer, told the Deseret News back in 2000 when Hill was inducted into the Utah Basketball Hall of Fame in the same class as Arnie Ferrin, Ladell Andersen and Billy McGill.

Former BYU great Gary Hill with other basketball officials. (Courtesy Hill family) Former BYU great Gary Hill with other basketball officials. (Courtesy Hill family)

“I stayed on his tail for three years. I wore out my car between Provo and Gunnison. We knew he was a prospect in the ninth grade. He was a phenom. Inside, outside, he could do it all.”

At Gunnison Valley High, Hill averaged 14 points as a freshman, 29 as a sophomore, 25 as a junior and 32 as a senior. In his high school career, he amassed 2,283 points, a record that still stands half a century later.

“He was a shooter, but he was never selfish and always looked for his teammates,” said Roberts. When they joined the upperclassmen that included Nemelka and Congdon, BYU entered into one of its most dominating basketball eras ever.

“He was one of most genuine persons I’ve ever known,” said his daughter Sarah Prentice, who said her father was diagnosed with leukemia on Jan. 1. “I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He cared more about others than himself. He was one of the few people left to show respect to everyone. He was a true gentleman.”

Hill never sat around reliving his glory days. He never talked about how he scored more points than any high school player in Utah history. But he did revel in stories about his teammates and how great they were.

“He never boasted about himself and what he did. The only time we really heard about things is when his granddaughter Savanah asked him to tell her about his playing days, what it was like, what he did and asked for him to teach her all he knew about the game,” said Prentice.

Services for Hill were in Provo and Gunnison on Saturday and Monday.

Jim Kelson, a trainer on BYU’s basketball team back in the '60s, spoke at Hill’s services and said they’d all had a full game of life.

“Ages zero to 20 we are in the first quarter; 20 to 40 we are in the second quarter, 40 to 60 in the third and 60-80 we are in the fourth quarter. Anything past 80 is overtime. Gary didn't do overtime. You knew he could win the game in the fourth quarter."

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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