Erin Hill was just 3 years old when she picked up a basketball at the Edgartown School playground and began teaching herself to dribble. It’s safe to say that athleticism runs in her blood. Her mom, Maureen McManus Hill, is a Massachusetts Basketball Hall of Famer, and Lafayette College’s all-time top scorer. Her father, Brad Hill, is one of the most popular personal trainers on-Island. So even though the Hills never intended to impose sports on their children, it was no surprise that Erin gravitated toward basketball that day. And for anyone who has ever watched her play, it’s no surprise that 15 years later, Hill is set to be the first Vineyard woman to play NCAA Division I basketball, as a class of 2022 Yale Bulldog.
Headhunters have been recruiting Ms. Hill since fall of her freshman year at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), but at this time last year, a torn ACL had made an offer to play basketball at an Ivy League school seem like a hoop dream.
Ms. Hill, who left MVRHS to play basketball at Tabor Academy two years ago, was playing in a game against Thayer Academy last February when she was caught back on a fast break from a Thayer forward. Ms. Hill jumped to block the shot, and felt a pop in her knee. When she tried to stand up, her leg collapsed underneath her.
“A,C, and L are the worst three letters you can hear in any sport,” Ms. Hill said. “When something happens to your knee, you’re praying it’s anything but an ACL.” Fortunately for Ms. Hill, an MRI revealed only a partial tear that would not require surgery. With four months of intense physical therapy and rest, Ms. Hill was back on the court, but she had missed most of her junior season — a crucial time for college recruitment.
“Yale was the only school who stuck with me throughout my injury,” Ms. Hill said. “They truly saw me for the player that I am, and believed in me to my full extent.” Of course, Yale’s top-notch academic programs and beautiful campus were draws as well. Ms. Hill said, “The second I stepped on campus, I knew it was the place for me.”
Ms. Hill began playing organized basketball in third grade at the Edgartown Boys and Girls Club. As a frequent high scorer, it wasn’t long before she moved up to play a level above her age group. Ms. Hill also joined an AAU (American Athletic Union) team, and began playing off-Island. She had barely slipped through the doors of MVRHS when she received her first college letter, from the University of Arizona. “I knew I wanted to play basketball at the next level, but I didn’t know the coaches would reach out so soon,” Ms. Hill said. “It was a nice surprise.”
Ms. Hill got another nice surprise in the fall of her junior year at MVRHS, when she noticed a strange man cheering for her in the stands. The man congratulated Erin after the game, then offered for her to repeat her junior year at Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass. Ms. Hill’s response was an enthusiastic “Sure!”
“I thought it would open up more doors for me, basketball and otherwise,” Ms. Hill said. “It’s just been a win-win situation, and it led me to where I am now. I might not have been here if I stayed on the Vineyard.”
Ms. Hill didn’t vacate the Vineyard without leaving her mark. In February 2016, she became the third woman in history to score 1,000 career points for MVRHS. “It was really sentimental to me because of all the work I’d put in over three years, and how much work my mom has put into me,” Ms. Hill said.
Still, the achievement is only one of Ms. Hill’s top three proudest basketball moments. The others focus on her teammates: Mariah Duarte’s game-winning three-pointer with 8 seconds left in an MVRHS playoff game, or Tabor’s hard-fought finals victory against archrivals Noble.
It’s this same selflessness, this team-first attitude, that makes Ms. Hill a strong player and teammate. The well-liked power forward was voted team captain in her first year at Tabor.
Not to mention she’s fast, slippery as an eel, and at 6 foot, 1 inch, has enough wingspan to reach through even the murkiest of plays. But Ms. Hill also has a high basketball IQ, and an ability to read the court that results in consistently good passes. “She’ll always look to pass first, which makes her a better teammate and player all around, because she makes everyone around her better,” said mom Maureen, who coached Erin up until she left for Tabor.
Ms. Hill cites her mother’s influence as an integral part of the player and person she has become: “My mom went through the same [recruitment] process, and she’s been my coach forever up until now. She inspires me, and everything I know is because of her.” Ms. Hill also says her father played a key role in helping her recover from her ACL tear, working with her to rebuild strength in her knee.
Then, of course, there is her longtime one-on-one partner, little sister Devin, who is also a rising basketball star at Falmouth Academy. “She inspires me to play great because I want to be someone she can look up to on and off the court,” Ms. Hill said.
Back at Tabor for her last semester, Ms. Hill is looking forward to spring lacrosse season, and refining her photography skills in her spare time. But first, there is still a basketball season to finish out, and nothing could be sweeter. “I always find peace when I’m playing,” Ms. Hill said. “I can have so many things going on and be so stressed out, but once I’m on the court it’s all gone. When I finish playing, I feel like a whole new person born.”