Old Dominion's young men's basketball team is suddenly even younger, after the discovery that veteran Donte Hill exhausted his eligibility.
Hill, a Virginia Beach native who would have been the team's only senior, transferred to ODU from Clemson following the fall semester of 2010. He didn't play for the Tigers that fall, but the issue is a closed exhibition game in which he played in October 2010 that counted toward his future eligibility clock.
Hill and the ODU coaching staff were under the assumption that he had 21/2 years of eligibility remaining when he transferred. Instead, he had only 11/2 years. He played the second half of the 2011-12 season for the Monarchs and was a team captain and starter all of last season.
Neither Hill nor new ODU coach Jeff Jones was available for comment.
The news about Hill was another gut punch for a program that took a nosedive following a remarkably successful eight-year run. Blaine Taylor, the winningest coach in ODU history, was dismissed in February for personal issues in the midst of a 5-25 season, the program's worst since the 1940s.
The Monarchs, who will compete in Conference USA beginning next season, were prohibited from competing in the CAA tournament last March, as an outgoing member.
Hill, who starred at Norfolk Collegiate High, played 23 games in a limited role as a freshman at Clemson under former coach Oliver Purnell. After Purnell left to take the DePaul job, the Tigers hired Brad Brownell.
In preseason of his sophomore year, Hill played in a closed exhibition game against Georgia on Oct. 30, 2010, according to Clemson officials. In the days that followed, he went to Brownell and said that he intended to transfer.
Hill did not play in Clemson's open exhibition one week later, or in any games that fall before leaving at the end of the semester.
NCAA rules stipulate that an athlete who competes for his or her school against another school is in what's called a "countable" contest, regardless of what it's called: exhibition, scrimmage or joint practice session (NCAA Bylaw 17.02.08 (a)).
Playing in that one exhibition game automatically made Hill a sophomore, eligibility-wise.
The only exception is that freshmen in basketball, soccer and field hockey may compete in preseason exhibitions or scrimmages without it counting toward a season of competition (NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.3).
Hill, a 6-foot-4 wing, averaged 8.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season, starting 28 of 30 games. His 86 assists were second only to point guard Keenan Palmore's 88. He averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 2011-12, when he started 19 of 22 games.
Dimitri Batten and Richard Ross, a pair of redshirt juniors, will be ODU's most experienced players next season. The Monarchs had six freshmen last season, including guard Ambrose Mosley, who was forced to sit out by the NCAA Clearinghouse. They have at least two incoming freshmen for next season: guard Jordan Baker of Hampton and wing Ramone Snowden of Kellam.