Three years after helping Clovis reach the Class 5A boys state championship game, a pair of ex-Wildcats standouts are trying to replicate that success on the college level.
Jaden Isler is handling point guard duties for NCAA Division III tournament-bound McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, while Hill’s outside game has helped Fort Worth-based Texas Wesleyan gain a berth into the NAIA Division I tournament
Isler and Hill are Clovis High’s No. 3 and No. 4 all-time scorers, respectively. Isler is the career assist leader, and Hill is the all-time 3-point field goals leader.
Each has made the adjustments to college ball, with a few stops along the way.
After Hill graduated from Clovis, he moved on to Jacksonville (Texas) College, a two-year school, then picked Texas Wesleyan over Eastern New Mexico University and College of the Southwest. Hill said the Rams were three-time conference champions, and it felt like the best situation.
He averages 10.9 points and 3.2 rebounds a game for the Rams (27-3), ranked No. 3 in NAIA Division I, and said consistency is the biggest challenge.
“I’m playing with guys who have been at this level,” Hill said. “Some nights I get shots, some nights I don’t. When the big games come up, I’ve got to consistently put up points.”
Texas Wesleyan opens the Red River Athletic Conference tournament tonight against Jarvis Christian, but is already in the national tournament by virtue of its regular-season RRAC title. The nationals run March 16-22 in Kansas City, Mo.
Isler’s path forked a little more, as McMurry is his fourth school in three years. He orally committed to Division I Charleston Southern, but collapsed later that afternoon while watching a softball game in Canyon, Texas. Doctors never identified what caused his heart to stop.
He still signed with Charleston Southern, but university officials told him during summer practice they didn’t want him to play because they feared a repeat incident. The school offered to honor the scholarship, but Isler opted out and played his freshman year at Lubbock Christian University. He then joined Hill for a season at Jacksonville before moving on to McMurry.
“I knew we had to find a point guard that could make all the other pieces I needed fit together,” said first-year McMurry coach Matt Garnett.
For Isler, the draw was having accountability as a point guard.
“From the start, coach Garnett made me know there was going to be a lot of responsibility on me,” Isler said. “That’s what I was looking for in a program.”
Isler is averaging 10.0 points and 4.8 assists and has started all 28 games for the Indians (21-7), ranked fourth in Division III. He had 15 points and a tournament-high eight assists in the American Southwest Conference championship Saturday — a 72-65 win over Mary Hardin-Baylor.
McMurry landed a top seed in its section of the 60-team tournament — the top team in each of the four sections received a first-round bye.
Hill and Isler usually talk on the phone on Sundays, and go over their most recent games. They hope future conversations will focus on playoff success.