The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Remembering Fred “Sugar Hill” Hill

Fred Hill (left) and Shawn Hood (right) playing in the Massachusetts high school South Sectionals at UMASS Boston in 1983.

“Basketball fans, we want to take a moment to honor and remember one of our Warriors. Fred “Sugar Hill” Hill graduated from Brookline High School in 1983 and passed away on Monday, February 5, 2024. Fred Hill is arguably the best to ever wear the Brookline Warriors uniform. Fred was a four-year starter, a three-time Suburban League all-star, both Boston Herald and Boston Globe All-Scholastic in his junior and senior season, and Eastern Massachusetts Player of The Year in his senior season. Fred was inducted into the Brookline High School Hall of Fame in 2015. Fred is still the all-time leading scorer in Brookline High School history. Please, help us honor him with a moment of silence for number five, Fred “Sugar” Hill.” – Read before the start of the Boys Basketball Game, Feb. 9, 2024

It’s hard to describe Fred to those that didn’t see him play. For a pre-teen that dreamed about being a great athlete, Fred seemed beyond that reach. It was like I was watching a rock-star or a teen idol. The fans came to games to see him, the cheerleaders seemed to cheer only for him and he had an incredible ability to make people think that Brookline could never lose with him on the court. They called him “Sugar Hill” in reference to the hottest and only popular rap group out at the time (Rapper’s Delight) and his sweet shooting stroke. He was special.

I first met Fred in the summer of 1980. The BHS basketball coaches ran a month-long camp for boys in Brookline’s elementary schools in grades 5th through 8th. I was honored to be chosen to participate. The players helped us learn the basics: ball handling, shooting technique, passing technique and concepts, pick and roll, give-and-go, boxing out, and lots of focus on defense. I found myself trying to get to the drills Fred would lead.

I can’t really explain how his character and aura drew me to him. He never seemed to miss a shot. Every demonstration seemed effortless, yet sharp and precise. I didn’t realize how young he was at the time; he had just finished his first year in Brookline schools as a 9th grade METCO student. As the summer camp ended, we found out that we could come to all of the BHS games for free if we wore our camp shirts; I could actually see Fred play.

My father would take me and my siblings to the home games and some away games. While I know the program was struggling in his early BHS years to regain its 1970s glory, it felt like Fred was winning hearts, minds and admirers. He seemed to score at will with his patented bank shot. I remember seeing him play at North Quincy and watching them try to take Fred out. He was on the floor for a loose ball and a player stepped on his chest. A fight broke out and it was scary as both benches cleared and fans came on the floor. To me and my 11-year-old mind, I was worried about Fred. Later, in high school, I vowed to never lose to North Quincy because of what they did to Fred.

In his senior year, my perspective of Fred reached an all-time high. Brookline never seemed to lose (that’s not true – they didn’t go undefeated). They beat the mighty Cambridge Rindge & Latin school twice, a team that had a young Rumeal Robinson, who would go onto a 13-year NBA career. In the state tournament, they easily handled Xaverian, a team who had a young Dana Barros, who would also go onto a 13-year NBA career. Fred was averaging 27 points a game without a three-point line nor a shot clock; he seemed invincible. Brookline kept advancing through the season and ran into a tough game against BC High. It came down to the last possession and everyone in the packed Brockton gym knew Fred would take the last shot. Brookline ran a play to get Fred to his favorite spot on the wing, and I felt like I was watching him run those shooting drills in the steamy hot Tappan gym from the summer of 1980. He drained it! For the win!

His reign ended when that 1983 team lost to a fantastic Don Bosco team that had four Division I college players, including his best friend Shawn Hood. Fred fouled out one minute into the fourth quarter after scoring 32 points. People, including myself, still blame the refs for taking that game away from Fred.

I would see Fred very little after he graduated. I remember moving back to Brookline and finding out BHS had established a Hall of Fame. I was shocked that Fred wasn’t in it. In 2011, Fred came back to play in a charity game for an assistant coach that had passed away suddenly. Oddly enough, I was coaching his team in the game.

I told Fred he was starting because I have never seen a game in Schluntz gym without him starting. He told me hadn’t touched a ball in years. Too bad! It took about a quarter before the rust wore off and his competitive spirit won over his no-longer teenage body. He started hitting those patented bank shot jumpers, now with a three-point line. I felt like that awed pre-teen again. Finally, in 2015, Fred was enshrined in the BHS Hall of Fame (he is also in the Howard University Hall of Fame). Later that night, his best friend, Shawn Hood, commented that Fred was about to take over and win that game against Don Bosco (1983) before he fouled out on that bad call. Vindication.

Fred would ultimately lose the battle we all lose, dying in February after living for years with complications from a stroke. A piece of my childhood died with him. For an incredible run, I had an idol I could see in my hometown gym and at the high school I knew I would attend.

I have followed BHS Basketball since 1980. I played, I coached and parented BHS players and have seen incredible talent wear the Warriors uniform. Many players had a lot of success during their time at BHS and after leaving BHS, but none have had the magic of Fred in our uniform and in our Schluntz Gymnasium. He’s not just the all time scoring leader, he was the best BHS Warrior I ever saw. He represented Brookline, the 13-year-old METCO Program and Boys Basketball with excellence. He would help establish BHS as a perennial boys basketball contender throughout the last five decades as well as the value of a Brookline METCO program that is close to sixty years old now. He was larger than life while being incredibly humble and a man of very few words. Thanks for the memories Fred, you will never be forgotten.

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