by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – Hazen Union’s Xavier Hill will play multiple sports in his upcoming senior campaign and when he finally laces up his basketball shoes one final time for the Wildcats this winter, he’ll leave behind a family legacy of unprecedented winning that goes back multiple generations.
Hill has been a standout varsity starter for Hazen athletics in basketball, soccer, and golf since he was a sophomore. He’s earned Honorable Mention honors on the pitch in a Capital League that features some of the best Division II and III soccer dynasties and teams in the state of Vermont.
In the same fall seasons, he has also moonlighted for the Wildcat golf team, qualifying for state sectionals two years in a row along with teammates Andrew Menard, Brendan Moody, Jadon Baker, and Tyler Rivard.
The smooth lefthander has shone the brightest on the basketball court however, earning back-to-back selections to the Vermont Dream Dozen Team, while helping lead Hazen Union to their eighth Division III state championship in 2022. With so many talented high school athletes around the state and around the country specializing in their favorite sport year-round nowadays, Hill looks forward to the competition that playing multiple sports provides along with the relationships that are built with fellow teammates.
“In my senior season at Hazen, I’ll also be playing soccer and golf. I love competing with and against my teammates in games and practices. Playing multiple sports gives me great opportunities to do that. My teammates are what make sports so enjoyable to me,” said Hill.
To say Hill comes from an athletic family is an understatement. His mother Dorothy was a multisport star at Cabot in the late ’90s, leading the girls’ varsity soccer team to the Division IV state title match in her senior season, as well as leading the girls’ basketball team to consecutive trips to the Barre Auditorium in her junior and senior seasons. She graduated from Cabot in ’99 as the Lady Huskies all-time leading scorer, a title that is now held by the great Alisha Celley.
His father, Travis, was a multi-sport star at Hazen Union, where he helped lead the Wildcats to the 1996 Division III basketball state title. His uncle Aaron was a standout multi-sport athlete at Hazen as well, but has made his mark as one of the best high school basketball coaches in state history, with nearly 400 career wins and six state championships before the age of 50. His late grandfather Dan was also a stellar athlete and state champion for Hardwick Academy, before coaching the Hazen Union varsity baseball program to the Division III state title game in 2007. Lastly, his cousins Letty and Carter were standout athletes at Hazen as well, with Carter a teammate of Xavier and senior captain on that 2022 state title team. Hill credits that family influence and support for putting him in opportunities to be around sports for as long as he can remember.
“I was lucky enough to grow up around varsity guys my whole life. I used to play against the guys on my uncle’s teams on a pull up bar in the corner during summer league hoop games. Being around people that really loved the game and made it so fun to play was what really got me into it. But my parents have been my biggest influences. They were both very successful athletes and seeing that really made me want all that myself. They always push me to get better and work as hard as possible to get better every day,” said Hill.
Hill will step into a major leadership role this season after watching a very special senior class that included Tyler Rivard, Jadon Baker, and Lincoln Michaud graduate this past spring. He’s never been asked to be the main scoring threat for a potent Wildcat offense that has reached the Barre Auditorium five of the last six years, but his career-high 24 points last winter in the second round of the division III tournament could be a sign of things to come in his senior campaign. Hill’s primary mission continues to be team success however, and the exhilaration of celebrating that 2022 championship with his teammates and family in front of the Hardwick community is a memory that drives him to experience it again.
“It’s hard to fill the leadership role of Tyler, Jadon, and Lincoln, but I am excited to take on the challenge with my classmates. This year I’ll have to take on tougher defensive assignments and as for offense, I believe my role stays the same and I need to take care of the ball and continue to push the pace. My teammates and I all have the primary goal of winning another championship and doing it in a way that makes our community proud. Winning a championship and celebrating with my teammates is my fondest memory as a Wildcat, while having the unbelievable support from our alumni and the entire community,” said Hill.
Hill’s success hasn’t clouded his judgment on what has gotten him to this level as a high school athlete…hard work. He appreciates the storied tradition and phenomenal athletes that have come before him at Hazen Union and urges the young aspiring athletes in the stands at the “Cat Den” to not only value the hard work that goes into success, but be a good teammate along the way.
“The biggest thing for me is to never skip an opportunity to play. Winning is fun, but it’s more fun when everyone feels they are contributing to the team’s success. Embrace the Hazen tradition and respect all the great Wildcats that have played before you,” said Hill.
Coach Hill has had the opportunity to coach some great ones in his 26 years on the sidelines at Hazen and admits that winning the ‘22 state title with his son and nephew on the starting roster and his brother on the coaching staff was extra special. He’s proud of Xavier’s success as a high school athlete and even more proud of the example he’s set for the players coming after him.
“Coaching Xavier has been special for me and I feel so lucky. He’s a good kid and everything you want in a player as a coach. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and has been an unselfish role model. He’ll have a slightly different role as we try to utilize his size a little more this season and I look forward to him having a big senior year,” said Hill.
On a side note, the soon to be senior also messed around and broke a world record in the cornhole universe this past spring at Hazen. He landed a cornhole 50 feet away while blindfolded. The previous world record for “Longest Cornhole Shot Blindfolded” was 45 feet, set by Jason Sander of the U.S. on September 5, 2022.
“I joined a J-Term class that was focusing on breaking world records and I got lucky to throw one in. As my Great-uncle Jack always says, ‘even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes,’” said Hill.
As the old adage goes…the more I practice the luckier I get.