In the two years since he was hired to thaw the icy relationship between Maryland and Washington D.C.'s top AAU programs, assistant coach Dalonte Hill has helped the Terps can access to recruits who were once off limits to them.
Now Maryland must decide if Hill's recruiting successes outweigh his off-the-court issues.
Hill announced Tuesday he will take a leave of absence from the Maryland staff after being arrested Sunday night at 9 p.m. for driving under the influence, among other charges. The other charges include attempting to drive a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, attempting to drive a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol or alcohol and drugs, attempting to drive a vehicle while impaired by controlled dangerous substance and failure to control vehicle speed on highway to avoid collision.
A DUI would be unacceptable but perhaps forgivable were this Hill's first arrest, but this is his third offense. His first DUI occurred while coaching at Kansas State in 2008 and his second came in Jan. 2012 on the Washington-Baltimore Parkway.
“I appreciate the support and encouragement I've received from Coach Turgeon and the athletic department,” Hill said in a school statement. “But at this time it is in my best interest to take a leave of absence from the Maryland basketball program and focus my attention on some personal matters that need to be dealt with immediately.”
Fair or unfair, it also won't help perception of Hill that he was close friends with Curtis Malone, the co-founder of the D.C. Assault AAU program who was arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin in August. The Washington Post reported in September that Hill wrote a letter of support on behalf of Malone indicating that the AAU kingpin "basically raised [him] and that Hill "wouldn't have gone to college if not for [Malone] emphasizing how important it was."
If public pressure forces Maryland to cut ties with Hill or seek his resignation, it would be a big loss for the basketball program.
Whereas former Maryland coach Gary Williams had a notoriously tepid relationship with local AAU programs and won despite not landing many of the top D.C.-area prospects, Hill has helped Turgeon open those doors. The Washington D.C. native has used relationships he built as a former head coach of the D.C. Assault, a powerhouse program that has produced nine McDonald's All-Americans and a handful of current NBA players during the past two decades including Michael Beasley, Jeff Green and Keith Bogans.
Thanks in part to Hill's connections, Maryland's two incoming freshmen this season are highly touted point guard Roddy Peters and center Damonte Dodd, both of whom played AAU ball for the DC Assault. The Terrapins have also landed elite shooting guard prospect Dion Wiley of Potomac High School in Maryland and promising combo guard Romelo Trimble of the DC Assault for the 2014 class.
Thus the dilemma Maryland faces is a difficult one.
First Turgeon must decide if he's comfortable having an assistant on his staff who has three DUI arrests on his record. Then he must consider whether Hill can still effectively win over parents and recruits despite that record. If the answer to either of those questions is "no" in the mind of Turgeon or the Maryland administration, then the third strike could mean that Hill is out in College Park.
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