Tonight’s match-up between the Kansas University women’s basketball team and nearby Missouri-Kansas City will be much more than a midseason, nonconference tune-up for at least one player on the court: Ashli Hill, a former Free State High standout who grew up in Lawrence.
Thirteen games into her college career, Hill has started six times and is averaging 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. She also leads the team with 35 blocked shots.
The numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Hill said she’s a much improved player from her high school days.
“I’m a better offensive player now,” she said. “I’m a post. Strictly a center, not even a forward. I actually like that a lot because I’m a good passer out of the post, and I have teammates around me who can all shoot.”
As for the defensive side of the ball, Hill has improved there, too.
“I’ve actually gotten a lot better at blocking shots,” said Free State’s record holder in nearly all blocked-shot categories.
Hill said she was ecstatic about getting the opportunity to play against the Jayhawks, especially in Allen Fieldhouse.
Hill originally committed to play at Oklahoma State and expected to play the Jayhawks often throughout her career. As a high school senior, she changed her mind and wound up at UMKC.
So far, she’s enjoyed every second of it.
“I love UMKC, I love the coaching staff, and I love my teammates,” Hill said. “I wouldn’t change anything.”
Hill said she knows a couple of Jayhawks well. She competed against KU forward Tania Jackson — a Lawrence High grad — as a sophomore and had gotten to know junior Aishah Sutherland during the past couple of years.
Regardless of her relationships, Hill’s looking at tonight’s game as nothing more than a win-or-lose endeavor.
“I’m excited about playing KU,” Hill said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to playing in front of my friends and family. But I still want to win.”
The Jayhawks (12-1) are coming off an 80-57 victory over UT Arlington last week. The victory pushed KU to its best start since 2005-06, when Bonnie Henrickson’s club also went 12-1 during the season’s first 13 games.
Tonight’s game marks the final contest of the nonconference schedule for the Jayhawks, who will open Big 12 play Saturday against Texas Tech at Allen.