By James Butler
COLLEGE PARK Ga. – North Clayton’s Ali Hill could make a strong case for being one of the most athletic and all-around student-athletes you’ll find in Georgia.
In fact there aren’t enough hours in a day for him to compete in all of the sports he wants to compete in.
“He’s just an athlete,” Ali’s father, Fred Hill, said. “He wants to do it all. Swim, baseball, soccer and track, but the time doesn’t [allow] for all of that.”
Ali, who has two second-place region finishes in golf, is also a member of the Eagles’ football and basketball teams. It is in those two sports where he is receiving interest from colleges, and he is keeping his options open.
“I really want to play both in college to be honest,” Ali said. “I love both sports. It will probably depend on the offer. Whoever offers me, what sport, what’s the biggest offer and who shows the most love.”
In his senior season on the football field, Ali contributed to North Clayton’s 3-7 campaign in 2015 as a receiver, defensive back, kick returner, placekicker and punter, though Fred thinks he could have helped having the ball in his hands every play as a quarterback as well.
When Ali did get the ball in his hands the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder showed his 4.4 speed and 38-inch vertical jump as he averaged over 26 yards per catch and over 37 yards per kick return.
When asked where he sees himself on the football field his answer was succinct and in line with his multifaceted ability.
“Everywhere,” he said.
On the basketball court he is pacing the Eagles with his defense. Ali can guard opponents’ best player, whether it is a point guard or even center.
“I don’t let anybody go by me,” he said. “Lockdown.”
Fred, who in addition to being Ali’s father, is the head coach of the resurgent girls basketball program at North Clayton and is an experienced trainer. Among those he has trained are former NBA players Ennis Whatley, Henry James, and Gani Lawal. So, shortly after Ali was born, it should come as no surprise that Fred, along with Ali’s grandfather, immediately began developing Ali as an athlete.
“Ali’s been training ever since he was a baby,” Fred said. “We had him in an academy (to play multiple sports) when he was young.”
As he grew up Ali played baseball and also participated in gymnastics, yoga, and martial arts as he built his body. He played football some in middle school, before picking the sport back up as a high school junior.
However, it was playing basketball for his dad in middle school when a pivotal moment happened in his life.
“When he was in middle school he was probably one of the shortest, stumpiest little kids that was on my team,” Fred said. “[…] our last game we played, it was a big shot. I didn’t choose him to shoot the shot, which hurt me as a father, because I didn’t want to hurt him in the long run thinking ‘my dad doesn’t believe in me.’ He overcame that and worked on his shot.”
Ali also eventually grew physically and athletically, as he was dunking by the ninth grade.
“He always said I was going to be a tall, strong young man,” Ali said, referring to his father. “Everybody made jokes about me. I laughed with them, [but], I saw myself growing and getting bigger. I always worked to get big and strong.”
Fred was a single parent for 11 years before remarrying, but Ali’s mom, stepmom, older brother Lexus, and stepsister Jasmine have all been influential in his life. So have North Clayton’s basketball coach Martisse Troup, basketball trainers Dorian Lee and Brad Zomick, and Willie Hunt, who is the father of former North Clayton basketball player and current Georgia Tech player Marcus Georges-Hunt.
Fred also gives the faculty at North Clayton credit.
“No one tried to lead him wrong,” Fred said.
Of all Ali’s attributes, Fred is most proud of his integrity.
“I love his character,” Fred said. “I love it to the bone. His respect for others, adults and his peers, I love it.”
With so many interests as a youth, and only playing two years of high school football, Ali’s best moments seem to still be ahead of him.
“His potential is high,” Fred said. “It’s more with the mind. Physically he can do probably almost anything. [Mentally] I think that’s what he’s growing more in now. He’s still learning the game. He’s still studying. In both sports he’s doing that.”
Ali has also worked to overcome academic struggles, recently earning a 24 on the ACT. That improvement has helped garner interest in football from Kennesaw State, Mercer, Catawba, and Tusculum, and has piqued the interest of Palm Beach in basketball.
Georgia State has inquired about the younger Hill in both sports.
He saw his stock rise in basketball after being named one of Georgia’s 12 nominees for the McDonald’s High School All-American Game. With such recognition often going to high-scoring offensive-minded players, Ali was surprised to get the honor. He suspects his impressive showing in the summer at the IMG Academy had something to do with being included on the list.
“I played against college players, some of the older guys,” Ali said. “I showed out down there [with] my defense and character. They were talking about how humble I am. I made a lot of friends when I was down there too. It was fun.”
Fred has worked in the Clayton County school system since Ali was an elementary student, and has moved with him each step of the way.
“I wish a lot of people could have that opportunity — a lot of fathers could have that opportunity, just to be there almost every minute with their child,” Fred said. “I learned how to grow with him. I always said I’m going to graduate when he graduates, but I don’t think the kids are going to let me.”