Anquan Hill (above) will spend his college years at Fairleigh Dickinson, who entered his recruitment late in the game. (Photo: Josh/Verlin/CoBL)
Rich Flanagan (@Richflanagan33)
A week after Archbishop Carroll lost at home to eventual state champion Allentown Central Catholic in the PIAA Class 4A Tournament quarterfinals, head coach Francis Bowe and senior Anquan Hill sat down to discuss the forward’s future.
Already boasting offers from Bowling Green, Saint Joseph’s and Drexel, Hill actually felt more apprehensive than comfortable with where his basketball career might eventually take him. He did not feel like a priority of the programs who had offered him. Furthermore, he did not want to go the prep school route and put off college for another full year.
Bowe began to make some calls to old friends who had connections to other Division I programs and he got in touch with Pete Lappas, current assistant coach at Fairleigh Dickinson and the son of former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas.
Pete Lappas nearly dropped the phone when Bowe told him Hill was still available and the third-year Patriots coach knew the situation was only going to intensify from there.
“I have good friends at Lafayette and a few other schools, and I lucked out reaching out to Pete,” Bowe said. “I kid you not, there was an assumption that [Hill] was going to Bowling Green. Pete jumped on the opportunity, saying, ‘He’s still available? You’re kidding me!’ I think it was within 24 hours that I was on the phone with Pete and [head coach Greg] Herenda that they were contacting Anquan and his father.”
Hill joined a Zoom call with Herenda and Lappas on April 13 and they formally offered the 6-foot-8 big man the opportunity to join the Knights program. After taking nearly a week to mull over his decision, Hill committed to Herenda and Fairleight Dickinson on Sunday evening.
Compared to the other offers he had accumulated, he felt an immediate connection with the Knights staff and sees a future within the program.
“The other offers like St. Joe’s and Bowling Green, I could see some of them weren’t fully committed to me,” Hill said. “When Fairleigh Dickinson came in, they showed that they really cared about me and wanted to spend time with me. Colleges can redshirt and basically recruit over you, but with Fairleigh Dickinson, I feel like that won’t happen.”
The connection that ultimately got Bowe in touch with Lappas and Herenda was his former mentor, Frank "Bud" Tosti, who coached at Malvern Prep from 1980-2002 and is the Friars all-time leader in wins (346). Bowe and Tosti have known each other for over 30 years and, on the flip side, Tosti and Herenda also know each other very well. It was that basketball connection that got Hill on Fairleigh Dickinson’s radar so late in his recruitment.
For Bowe, seeing the emphasis Herenda and Lappas put on bringing Hill into the program in such a short time span stood out.
“Anquan felt that and the consistency over the last week and a half,” Bowe said. “It doesn’t shock me that he did it. That’s Anquan’s personality. He wants to be somewhere he’s cared for and in a place where they will make him a better ball player.”
One of the avenues Bowe and Hill discussed was to have the big man play out the AAU season with K-Low Elite, but the path simply added to the exhaustion Hill was feeling this late in the process.
“I didn’t want to wait any longer to find a much higher offer playing AAU this year,” Hill said. “I’m happy to be going to college this year and choosing Fairleigh Dickinson. I have no regrets with my decision.”
Anquan Hill (above) had a strong senior season as he stepped into a leadership role. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Hill did not want to have to deal with delving into a bigger program where he may have been forced into a situation and sit out a year or ultimately transfer to another school. The NCAA administered two major changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. First, they gave all student-athletes an additional year of eligibility. Then, in March, it was announced that all student-athletes would be granted a one-time transfer waiver and become immediately eligible.
He watched as the transfer portal exploded following these changes and came to a conclusion: he wanted to “go somewhere where I could feel love from the coaching staff and get an opportunity to show what I can do on the court.”
After playing against notable big men like Roman Catholic’s Jalen Duren, the 6-10 forward ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2022 now playing at Montverde Academy (Fla.), Bonner-Prendergast’s Tariq Ingraham (Wake Forest) and Bishop McDevitt’s Jamil Manigo (West Chester) over the last two seasons, Hill flourished as a senior, averaging 17.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for the Patriots (9-7, 7-5 Philadelphia Catholic League).
His play picked up at the end of the season as he averaged 28.7 points, 12.3 boards and 4.0 blocks in consecutive wins over Archbishop Ryan, Conwell-Egan and Martin Luther King in the District 12 4A title game. He showcased his range against the Cougars hitting three 3-pointers, an aspect of his game that continues to develop.
Playing alongside fellow seniors Tyler Seward and Caleb Carter as well as standout freshmen Moses Hipps, who boasts an offer from La Salle, and Chase Coleman, Hill did a little bit of everything for Archbishop Carroll, but most importantly, he controlled the paint at both ends.
While still lean with room to fill in, Bowe stressed that “strength” was Hill’s biggest improvement from his junior to senior season. Hill had to rebound, block shots and “do it all,” according to Bowe. Most of all, Bowe notes Hill’s development into a versatile forward came after his frontcourt mate moved onto Woodstock Academy (Conn.).
“In his sophomore and junior year, he had the luxury of Tairi Ketner,” Bowe said. “Ketner had to do a lot of those things for us and he could handle that. If Ketner got in foul trouble, we would rely on Anquan but at that time little things like having the ball knocked out of his hands would happen. That didn’t happen this year.”
Another reason behind Hill’s maturity came after former teammate and Memphis commit John Camden transferred to Brewster Academy (N.H.) when it appeared there would not be a winter sports season in Pennsylvania. Hill felt an obligation to make up for the loss of Camden as a senior.
“When someone of his caliber leaves, everyone has to step up, but especially me,” Hill said. “I felt, as a senior, I needed to step up, particularly with only three seniors and two freshman starters. I needed to do that.”
Hill posted a line of 17 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks and three steals in his final high school game against the Vikings and was named Second Team All-Catholic this year. He emerged as one of the premiere rim protectors in one of the toughest leagues in the state.
The potential is there and Bowe is confident he will continue his development at Fairleigh Dickinson.
“He still has to put some weight on but he’s ready for college,” Bowe said. “He’s got toughness, grit and skill. Most of all, he’s still developing. He’s going to make FDU very happy.”