Gary Hill, the 1960′s Utah HS and BYU hoops phenom, passes away

This post is a guest post by Ken Driggs, a Cougar Blog contributor

My nephew Paul Driggs, who is former BYU Basketball player Gary Hill’s LDS Bishop, called me with the news that Gary had died.  He said that Steve Kramer and Craig Raymond, members of the 1966-67 NIT Championship team, would be talking this weekend at the memorial service for Gary.

I remember after my mission in the early 60’s there was a renaissance for BYU Basketball.  Over a two year period, BYU had a huge recruiting cache.

Gary Hill as pictured in this year 2000 photo. Photo Credit: Keith Johnson, Deseret News

First, a group of 4 star freshman players and two JC transfer came in, with Dick Nemelka, Jeff Congdon, Steve Kramer, Bill Ruffner, John Fairchild, and Jon Stanley.

The next year, five outstanding recruits followed them: Neil Roberts, Gary Hill, Craig Raymond, Ken James, and Jim Jimas.  They were highly touted, and Neil Roberts had been recruited by UCLA to be a decathlon athlete.  But none was more highly touted as a basketball star than Gary Hill, the legend from Fayette.

We heard all about the exploits of Hill at Gunnison High, where he had dominated Utah small high school basketball.  He was smooth and unstoppable; he averaged over 30 points a game his senior year.  Combined with the other two all-staters from Utah, Roberts and Jimas, and the two stars from Washington, Raymond and James, the freshman team was scheduled to be formidable.

BYU students would clamor to get to the Smith Fieldhouse early to watch the freshman team rack up over 100 points in virtually every game.  By the time they were sophomores, BYU was gaining national attention, and Sports Illustrated had a feature article about BYU co-eds and “Twelve Tall Cougars.”

Hill suffered a knee injury early in his college career and was never the same, though he did contribute to some of the most memorable moments in BYU basketball history.

Ironically, it was a knee injury to forward Neil Roberts on BYU’s last regular season game in 1966, a trouncing of Utah (I was unveiled as Cosmo that night), that resulted in Hill starting all three NIT games, including the championship win over NYU.

It was quite an era for BYU Basketball. I won’t forget those great games, teams, and players like Gary Hill, the Gunnison High basketball phenom.

Ken Driggs of Mesa, AZ is a BYU graduate and 

as Cosmo in the ’60′s. Contact at kkdriggs@gmail.com

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