Failed basketball opportunities followed Quasan Hill from Mississippi to New Jersey to Texas.
He sought solace and strength on the track and found both at every stop, as well as a home for his raw and dream-inspired talents.
“Usually, I’d run when I’m mad or I run whenever I feel like it,” the Shoemaker senior said. “It feels good to run. I would run until I felt comfortable running. ... (Coaches) would just tell me (basketball) is all about conditioning and it’s all about running and fundamentals. So, that’s what I worked on even though I wasn’t on the team.”
Hill didn’t make the cuts in Gulf Port, Miss., and when he moved to Camden, N.J., midway through his junior year, it was too late to join the basketball team. He transferred to Shoemaker before his senior year, but because his family had just a single car at the time, he couldn’t make the Grey Wolves’ 6 a.m. basketball practices. So, Hill ran, thinking about where to go and what to do next. Shoemaker track coach Kevin Ellison gave Hill little else but an opportunity he never considered.
“He told me, ‘All you’ve got to do is run and jump and you can get a scholarship. It’s that easy. I see you jumping all the time, why don’t you put it in track,’” Hill said. “I put thought into it and I told him I’d try it. Then, I tried it and I thought, why haven’t I been doing this. I’ve always been running. I didn’t like any other sport except basketball; I just gave this a try and I liked it.”
With no experience running track, Hill qualified for the Region I-5A meet, which runs today and tomorrow at Texas Tech’s Fuller Track, in the 200-meters, the high jump and the 800-relay.
He placed third in the high jump with a mark of 6 feet, 4 inches, fourth in the 200 in 21.83 seconds and anchored the Grey Wolves’ first-place 800-relay team last week at the District 7-5A and 8-5A area track and field meet.
Hill also qualified for the area meet in the 400 and the 1,600-meter relay. The Grey Wolves’ mile relay didn’t qualify for the regional meet and Hill pulled himself out of the 400 to focus on the 800 relay, like teammates Johnny Jefferson and DeOntre Haynes pulled out of the 100 meters for the same end.
“He’s had to do a lot of juggling around because he’s been long jumping, triple jumping and then coming out, jumping on the relays, jumping on this and that,” Ellison said. “We’ve had him all over the place, so he’s been multi-talented at the track meets and that’s what we like about him. We’re using him and it’s a for a good cause and I think it’s going to help him.”
Competing among a different group of people
The come-lately track prodigy knows little more about the sport than run fast and beat everyone to the finish line. In fact, in his first-ever track meet, Hill completely missed the 400, his marquee event until being named the 800-meter anchor just before the area meet last week at Waco Midway’s Panther Stadium.
“I was like, ‘Hey, aren’t you supposed to be in the 400?’” Ellison said. “I didn’t realize that I had to let him know that he’s supposed to go out there and check in and stuff like that. ... Most of the time, they get that stuff as freshmen. ... He’s just getting better and better each week, so we’re going to keep him going and hopefully, he can keep going.”
Learning the ropes is not all that Hill has learned along the way. The basketball player, who started dunking as a freshman and went to every open gym he could get to just to show others his achievement, set the Shoemaker high jump school record with a 6-9 mark at a pre-district meet, and finished 10th at the prestigious Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
He qualified for the 86th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and finished 10th in the high jump (6-5).
“When I first started, I didn’t think I was that good. When I was running in practice, I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m the fastest on the team.’ Got to the meet, a lot of people are fast like me. ... I had no confidence,” Hill said. “But, when I started going farther and farther ... I’m getting all these medals and I started feeling good.”
Ellison added: “I don’t care what he says, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. But, the fact that he’s naive about some of it, I think, is what makes him good, too,” Ellison said. “You put yourself in a different class when you break 50 (seconds) in the 400 consistently, and you break 22 in the 200. You’re in a different group of people.”