Samir Hill most enjoys playing basketball when defenders are right in his face.
If asked, he'll let loose with a big sigh, so they can tell what he ate for lunch. Even open way wide so his fillings can be counted.
"I'll blow right by 'em," he said. "I can always do that. On anybody."
Hill is a 5-8, 143-pound senior point guard for Overbrook High. But he played last winter for A. Philip Randolph and was still enrolled there for roughly the first month of this school year.
The more Samir badgered his mom, Tamika, the more she resisted.
"She was the one that put me in Randolph in the first place," he said. "I live right down the street from 'Brook [at 56th and Lansdowne] and she was worried about what might happen if I was around too many of my friends."
The ever-slick Samir devised a plan.
"I started waking up late," he said, smiling. "I was really tired there for a while."
Finally, with further nudging from Samir's brother, Kyle, Mom caved in.
"Know what she's saying now?'You shoulda been goin' to 'Brook,' " he said. "I'm glad she finally made the decision. It's working out much better. I'm having no problems at school and the basketball is much better. It's nice being so close, too."
Overbrook's glory days are long gone, of course, but the Panthers/Hilltoppers do compete in the Public League division (A) with the large-enrollment schools. And Tuesday with 11 points, five rebounds, one assist and four steals, Hill helped them cruise to victory.
The final score vs. visiting Thomas Edison was 42-35. That's misleading, however. The count after three quarters was 34-17 and the Owls' late mini-rush came mostly against deep subs.
For Randolph, located along Henry Avenue at the foot of East Falls, Hill, a lefty, last year averaged just under 14 points.
"That's the lower level of the Pub, though," he said. "It's kind of like corny points. No one really notices. It's hard to get college attention. I had to count on AAU ball for that.
"I just thought it would help me to come here. Plus, I know a lot of these guys. I was friends with them before I joined the basketball team."
Hill's skills were not exactly viewed by the masses. The administration did not allow regular spectators for this home opener because of some recent in-school issues, according to coach Freddie Stokes and athletic director Ken Sturm. The "crowd" numbered maybe 30, and most of those guys were JV players awaiting the start of their own practice.
No figures can be provided on how many witnesses fell asleep. This was not a classic, hoopheads. The teams combined to shoot 26-for-94 from the floor (Edison was 12-for-46) and there were long stretches where the only scoring took place at the line.
The Owls inadvertantly hurt their own cause. After Curtis Greer (21 points) drained two early treys, 'Brook switched from zone to man-to-man. Edison scored 11 points over the next 21 1/2 minutes.
"We have a lot of guys who are new to varsity," Hill said. "They're not really sure of their assignments [in a zone]. Coach Stokes felt we had to go man. We gave them trouble."
Like many Pub teams, Edison's lineup includes one big guy and guard after guard after guard. Due to incessant foul trouble, 6-2 junior Michael Fuller (I guess that qualifies as big) had to settle for one point and two rebounds. Overbrook's primary frontcourt guys, Brandon Fulton and Alonzo Carmelo, totaled nine points/14 rebounds and 11/six, respectively.
Football player Dante Glover, a sub, had an impact right before halftime. First he bullied for a three-point play. Then he made a steal and steamed downcourt. Though he missed the layup, Raymond Mills converted the follow and 'Brook headed for the locker room with a 20-12 pad.
Playing hoops for Randolph isn't easy, especially for someone not from that neighborhood. The school plays all games away. It practices in a rec center right behind Murrell Dobbins Tech, with which it partners for football.
"They have no gyms, anywhere, at Randolph," Hill said. "All they have is a weight room."
He laughed. "Hey, I'm trying to get taller before I think about getting stronger."