Manchester point guard Jah’Nile Hill faced expectations higher than ever before in his senior year with as a Blue Devil. While his team faced a few bumps along the way, Hill did his part to bring Manchester a highlight-packed season.
Hill went out with a bang for the Blue Devils, dropping 19 points per game and setting a new school record for career points in the process. Hill also helped the team right the ship after an ineligible player controversy could have derailed Manchester’s promising season.
Thanks to Hill’s impressive sendoff as a high school player, he has been selected the 2017-2018 All-Bi-City Small School Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“This year, it was great,” Hill said. “We had a couple of players step up and had a great coach (Anzy Hardman) come in. We brought back the full-court press, and that helped us a lot. We tired out a lot of teams. This was my best year in my whole high school career.”
The hiring of Hardman, who won six state championships at Woodbury and Taylor County, officially put Manchester on championship notice. Hill said Hardman pushed Hill to get in better shape leading into the season, more on the mental side of the game than the physical. Hardman stressed that as his new point guard, Hill needed to be poised at all times and keep the team together through thick and thin.
In the early portion of the season, Hill and his teammates were nothing short of unstoppable. The Blue Devils started off 15-0, with eight of those wins coming by 18 points or more. Whether it was playing point offensively or smothering opponents as part of the Blue Devils’ press defense, Hill was making plays night after night.
The highlight of the hot start came on Jan. 12 in one of the most anticipated basketball games in the area. Undefeated Manchester travelled to Talbotton to play undefeated Central-Talbotton in a game that wound up selling out. Hill and the Blue Devils got the upperhand on the road with a 66-54 victory.
“There was a lot of hype around that game. It was real crazy. People were buying their tickets from everywhere,” Hill said. “It was a packed-out game. It was one of the funnest games I ever played in my life.”
A little over two weeks after the Central win, an unexpected obstacle threw the Blue Devils for a loop. Manchester self-reported playing an ineligible player in five games, including the Central victory.
As a result, the Blue Devils were forced to forfeit all five games. With their pursuit of an undefeated season now history, Hill and his teammates had to regroup.
“Coach had brought us in and told us as a family (the news). We were down, but that same day, we got out at practice and went extra hard,” Hill said. “It just fueled us the whole time. That was one of the wildest things in high school when they came in and told us that.”
The Blue Devils never hesitated once they returned to the court, winning nine of the last 10 games of the regular season. The would-be 25-1 Manchester squad instead entered the state tournament 20-6, leading to a No. 6 seed in the Class A Public bracket.
Manchester won its opening game of the state tournament before falling to Wilkinson County, the eventual state champion. The loss brought Hill an unsavory close to his high school career, but despite its ending, Hill spoke highly of the role being a Blue Devil has played in his life.
“I love Manchester High School and the energy it gives off. I love it so much,” Hill said. “All my years of school and basketball, it was great. It was like one family. We’re real small, but it’s everybody helping everybody. It was great being a Blue Devil, and I’ll never forget what the Blue Devil family did for me.”