At a crossroads at TCU, it was clear to Charles Hill that the happy ending he sought for his college basketball career wasn’t to be found in his hometown.
So rather than stay for his final season, he instead opted for an escape hatch, taking a leap and finding himself relocated in what might appear to be an alternate universe of rodeo cowboys and agricultural plowboys.
But at Stephenville’s Tarleton State, the Texans have been known to play a little basketball, too.
The 6-foot-2 guard is finally making the memories he sought when he left Fort Worth’s Trimble Tech High School four years ago.
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Division II bracket
He is a key part of the Texans’ run to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, which begins Wednesday at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco. Tarleton’s fourth appearance among the last eight teams standing in the Division II tournament starts with a quarterfinal game against Augustana (S.D.), 31-2 and No. 2 in the nation, at 6 p.m. The Texans (24-8) are ranked 23rd.
“Sometimes I look back and think it could have been different, but everything happens for a reason,” said Hill, whose career at TCU essentially ended when coach Trent Johnson suspended him indefinitely for “conduct unbecoming of a TCU men’s basketball player.”
“I think I’m in a perfect position. Everything you do in life you have to learn a lesson from and take it as it comes. I’m in a pretty good spot right now.”
Hill said he and Johnson, who was fired by TCU a little more than a week ago, met after the season. The coach gave the player an option: He was welcomed back or he could leave.
After 52 games in three seasons, Hill packed his bags and moved on. In 14 games as a junior, Hill averaged 2.6 points and 1.2 rebounds a game.
These guys have been amazing since I arrived on campus. We all clicked.
Tarleton State guard Charles Hill, who transferred from TCU
Hill’s only option if he didn’t want to sit out a season, per NCAA transfer rules, was Division II, where he could play immediately.
“I didn’t see any red flags,” said Tarleton coach Lonn Reisman, who spoke to TCU about Hill’s situation there. “I wanted him to come in here with a great work ethic. I think that’s something I preach to him on a daily basis … what I’ve told him all year long is you have to have great energy and great work ethic to get a lot of minutes here.”
Described as likable with a good temperament by many who know him, including Reisman, Hill said he felt he fit in the moment he arrived on campus to visit.
“These guys have been amazing since I arrived on campus,” said Hill, who aspires to play overseas after college. “We all clicked. I thought [the adjustment] was pretty smooth. When you get to a new place you have to adjust. Once you get adjusted, it’s pretty much playing basketball.”
That’s probably too simplistic an assessment, Reisman said. It’s a new system to learn, new teammates and coaches and the general unwritten rules of “how we do things around here.” That takes time and why most two-year transfers don’t just walk into Game One with both feet on the floor.
Hill, recruited to TCU by Jim Christian, has played in each of the Texans’ 32 games, including starting 25. He has averaged 11.4 points in 22 minutes a game.
He’s a work in progress, Reisman said, even with what everyone in Stephenville hopes is three more games.
A victory would put the Texans, led in scoring by senior EJ Reed, in the Division II Final Four a second consecutive year.
The hopes of Hill and Tarleton, champions as the No. 4 seed of the South Central Region, are boosted by the fact that the team is playing its best basketball, having won eight of its last nine games.
The Texans will encounter a size mismatch with Augustana, led by All-America forwards Daniel Jansen and Casey Schilling.
“I think we have peaked at the right time,” Hill said. “We’re on a roll right now. Everything we have gone through has made us better.”
And he feels the same about himself.
NCAA Div. II Elite Eight
Tarleton State vs. Augustana
6 p.m. Wednesday, Dr Pepper Arena, Frisco