Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball’s Kymber Hill reunites with newly-hired coach Tory Verdi for her final season

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

As the Massachusetts women’s basketball team introduced newly-hired head coach Tory Verdi Wednesday morning at the John Francis Kennedy Champions Center, Kymber Hill watched from the back of the room with a serious, yet sincere look on her face as her new coach took questions from the media.

But as other members of the Minutewomen including Maggie Mulligan, Alyx Stiff and Stephanie Foukaris sat and listened to Verdi speak for the first time, Hill watched separated from the rest of her teammates. Had she made a different decision three years earlier, listening to Verdi talk would have been a part of her daily routine.

“It was shocking, yes. I didn’t think it would happen,” Hill said. “It’s a great thing.”

When it was time for Hill to leave Althoff Catholic High School in her hometown of Belleville, Illinois, she had narrowed her college choice down to two schools: UMass or Eastern Michigan, where Verdi had just completed his first year as head coach of the Eagles.

“I was recruited by him. When I came down to my last two schools, it was Eastern Michigan and UMass, so it was a really hard decision for me,” Hill said. “Being able to play for him is really exciting.”

Ultimately, Hill ended up choosing UMass, where she has averaged five points and four rebounds per game in 20.8 minutes played while starting 66 of her 88 career games for the Minutewomen.

Verdi finished his four-year stint in Ypsilanti, Michigan with a 72-61 record, including back-to-back trips to the WNIT, where the Eagles reached the “Sweet 16” in the 2014-15 season.

“We could pick (Hill’s) brain, but at the end of the day I don’t think that’s going to do anything,” Stiff said. “We have to learn from him, so I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for us going forward.”

During Hill’s thee years at UMass, the Minutewomen have underperformed with a combined record of 28-63 (12-38 Atlantic 10) under former head coach Sharon Dawley, who was fired three days after they lost to Fordham in the second round of the A-10 tournament.

Despite posting identical 12-18 records after finishing her freshman season 4-27, Hill said UMass needed a change to take its next step forward.

“We are very excited about the change. When he came in yesterday he expressed the new change that he wanted to bring in,” Hill said. “I feel like our program needed a change to be successful. Being a senior, I want to go out with a bang.

“I think it is important for me to step up and be a leader and be a senior. I need to control my team, continue to express, win games and make a change,” she added.

After meeting the Minutewomen for the first time Tuesday night, Verdi was pleased with how they responded to his philosophies of playing faster, with more pressure on the defensive end and increasing offensive possessions.

“I was very, very surprised with the eagerness and the want that they have. They want to be great. It was stated several times so I am excited about those players that we have in our program, and together, collectively, they can fit the system that we are going to implement,” Verdi said.

“They are hungry, they have a want to and together we are going get there,” he added.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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