Darrun Hilliard’s arrival on Villanova’s campus was met with, well, not much ado. Garnering only three stars from ESPN’s recruiting rankings out of Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Penn., Hilliard represented a deviation from Coach Wright’s normally prolific recruiting classes. Little was expected out of the player who projected to top out as a quality role player.
Hilliard’s impact on the Wildcats was been anything but little. After averaging a modest 4.8 ppg on the unforgettable for all the wrong reasons 2011-2012 team, Hilliard emerged as a pillar of consistency within Villanova’s starting lineup for the next three seasons. His sophomore season marked a significant increase in playing time, up to 29 minutes per game, and a corresponding surge in production.
Yet while his overall numbers were solid over the course of that season, it was Darrun's junior year that truly stood out. Despite averaging approximately the same number of minutes per game, Hilliard increased his efficiency across the board: his overall field goal percentage rose 8% points and his three point percentage rocketed all the way from 31% to 41% - production that would continue through his senior season.
Date of Birth: April 13, 1993 (age 22)
Weight: 220 lbs.
Standing Reach: 8’7″
Hilliard's strengths lie in his size and ability to shoot. At 6’6″ he's got good size for a guard at the professional level. His best asset is his ability to shoot the ball from the outside. Darrun connected on 39.95% of his three-point attempts over his junior and senior seasons. While not an elite slasher, he's also demonstrated a knack for getting in to the lane and finishing with either hand at the rim at a high clip.
Defensively, Hilliard was a stalwart of Jay Wright's man-to-man defense and 3/4 court trap. Playing at the top of a 1-2-2 trap, Hilliard used his length and instincts to cause a ton of turnovers. In the half court, his motor, footwork, and discipline will be an asset at the next level where he may be tasked with matching up against a more skilled offensive player.
It's the NBA, so we'd be foolish to think that Hilliard isn't going to take a knock for a lack of raw athleticism. He's not going to wow the crowd with a highlight reel dunk every other night, and he lacks the handle and speed to consistently blow by defenders off the dribble. That leads to shot creation problems from time to time.
Hilliard also has a tendency to settle for jump shots. When he's hot, nobody will complain, but he has a shooter's mentality so he's not going to stop until he shoots his way out of a funk. In the right system (Golden State?) he could be an asset that stretches the defense. In another system, he may not have the offensive arsenal to demand rotation minutes.
Where will Hilliard land?
Hilliard didn't land an invite to the NBA Draft Combine, but did participate in the Portsmouth Invitational alongside his teammate JayVaughn Pinkston. Since then, Hilliard's had 15+ workouts all over the country. If anything, he's in contention for a late 2nd-round pick. The Philadelphia 76ers seem like a fair guess at this point since Hilliard just completed his second workout with the local organization. And while they will likely package some assets before all is said and done, Philadelphia currently has five second round picks in addition to the #3 overall selection. The Los Angeles Lakers are another club that has now brought Hilliard in twice. The Lakers currently hold the #2 and #27 picks in the first round, and the #34 pick in the second round.