Malcolm Hill Feels ‘nostalgia’ About Wearing Orange And Blue One More Time

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It took the jersey reveal for Malcolm Hill to realize he’ll once again be putting on his alma mater’s colors of orange and blue on a basketball court.

Hill, who is the program’s third all-time leading scorer, has been playing professionally overseas in the Philippines, Germany and Kazakhstan. None of those colors felt right but Hill, who led the Illini to three invitations to the National Invitational Tournament in his four-year career, can certainly appreciate representing his school one more time in The Basketball Tournament 2020.

“I felt initially like I represent Illinois everywhere that I go so this idea is nothing new to me but putting on an orange and blue jersey,” Hill said. “When I saw the jersey reveal, it made me just think about how fast time does go by.”

The fifth annual installment of this tournament, involving 24 teams this year, will start on July 4 and continue through the championship game on July 14, with all games held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio and televised on the ESPN Networks. The prize to the winning team of the championship game is a pot of $1 million.

The ‘House Of Paign’ team will open the competition at 7 p.m. on July 4 against ‘War Tampa’, a squad made up primarily of Auburn alums, on ESPN. The winner of that game will play the event’s defending champion and host Carmen’s Crew made up primarily of Ohio State alums.

For Hill, who scored a total of 1,846 points in his Illini career, the objective on this TBT ‘House Of Paign’ team is much more relaxed than when he was trying to obtain wins for the John Groce-led Illinois program from 2013-17.

“For me personally, I talked with (House Of Paign head coach) Mike LaTulip and we talk mostly about how we can get guys in their best spots,” Hill said Wednesday. “I mean, I don’t mean anything cocky or anything but I’m going okay (with his game) and the main thing is I want everybody on the team to be comfortable to play to their best potential.”

The bracket for The Basketball Tournament 2020, which will begin July 4 at Nationwide Arena on ESPN. 

Hill was one of the first Illini alumni to agree to play in this game and will be playing with former teammates Nnanna Egwu, Leron Black and Michael Finke. Hill saw his college career end with Black and Finke in a 10-point loss at UCF in the 2017 NIT quarterfinal round. Now, he gets a chance to compete with the orange and blue colors one more time.

“These are going to be the type of memories that we can talk about later on in life,” Hill said. “Seeing the jerseys gave me nostalgia to represent Illinois again. You think about the fact that we’re going to be the only sport playing (due to the ongoing coronavirus) so the whole nation is going to be paying attention.”

Illinois Fighting Illini forward Leron Black (12) and guard Malcolm Hill (21) box out Maryland Terrapins forward Justin Jackson (21) during the second half at State Farm Center. The Terrapins won 62-56. Hill and Black will represent the Illinois alumni team in The Basketball Tournament 2020 starting on July 4.Mike Granse/USA TODAY Sports

Illini fans may notice a different looking Hill as he admitted to being a thinner and more athletic player due to switching to a vegan diet that has allowed him to stay relatively in playing shape even during the current stay-at-home orders during the spring months as the ‘House Of Paign’ team was being formed.

“When I got back home from Kazakhstan, I decided to go vegan just to change it up a little bit and be uncomfortable because you can only grow from uncomfortable experiences,” Hill said. “That just happened to be the reason I’m losing 30 pounds or so during the COVID (epidemic). I feel like I’m a whole different type of basketball player now.”