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Hill Hopes to Keep Climbing Against Florida Gulf Coast



CHICAGO - Everything is coming into focus for Devin Hill.

For a while, the 6-foot, 9-inch DePaul sophomore struggled in his new role as the replacement for the injured 6-10 Mac Koshwal.

But as the Blue Demons travel to Ft. Myers, Fla. for their final nonconference game at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday against Florida Gulf Coast, Hill is playing his best basketball of the season.

He had 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in a 77-56 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 13. Three days later, Hill came away with a team-high 16 points in a 62-57 loss to American University.

Last Saturday, he scored a career-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and three blocks in an 86-69 defeat of Texas State.

"I've been trying to be more aggressive, yet make sure I still take good shots," said Hill, who swished four-of-five three-pointers last Saturday. "Those three-pointers were wide-open shots, not forced threes.

"The last three games, we finally got used to playing without Mac (Koshwal). It was a struggle before that. Guys had to get used to playing a different position."

DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said Monday evening that Koshwal (15 points, 13 rebounds a game) has been cleared to play against Florida Gulf Coast after missing eight games due to a foot injury.

"After playing without Mac, it will be a lot easier now," Hill said. "Mac is always taking on the biggest guy on the other team. He's our inside presence, our go-to guy and our anchor.

"I made some adjustments with Mac out. There was a lot more post play. I had to play defense against all-out post players. Playing center the last three games, I've used my speed against bigger players and gone straight to the basket."

Wainwright has tracked Hill's steady improvement.

"Playing center in place of Mac will really help Devin," Wainwright said. "It was good for him to get his nose bloodied a little bit. He was forced to get away from the perimeter part of his game.

"We've gone inside to him, and he has really produced. I also like the way he has used his speed on defense while improving his ball-screen defending and his rotation. Devin has taken a big step forward, and he gives us a bigger front line along with Mac's return."

The Blue Demons will also get bigger in the backcourt if 6-5 Mike Stovall continues his heady, all-around play.

Wainwright made an inspiring move in last Friday's practice, having Stovall become more hands-on by initiating the attack.

It resulted in Stovall's 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals against Texas State---the best all-around performance by a DePaul player this season.

"Having Stovall initiate the offense gave him a better feel for what he can do," Wainwright said. "Hopefully, this will give him more confidence. He has always had good ball skills.

"Where he can really have an impact is those six steals. He still has to play team defense, but sometimes you just have to let a guy play his game and use his instincts."

Florida Gulf Coast has won its last three games after opening the season with a six-game losing streak. The Eagles are led by 6-6 freshman Anthony Banks (12.4 points per game), 6-1 Reed Baker and (12.2 points) and 5-9 Reggie Chambers (11.7 points) who is shooting 39.4 percent from three-point range.