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Shakyla Hill helps team win Serbian League title before playoffs postponed due to the coronavirus

She was homesick in February, but now the former Grambling star is back in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her family

In early February, Shakyla Hill was homesick while playing for ZKK Kraljevo in Serbia. She’d just gotten her third career quadruple-double, her first as a professional. The former Grambling State University point guard was helping lead the team to its first league championship and a playoff berth. But like many major sporting events around the world, the playoffs were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As much as she wanted to go home to Little Rock, Arkansas, for a while, Hill didn’t want it to happen this way.

“I’m actually pretty sad that they’re postponed,” Hill said. “I’ve been saying for so long, ‘I’m ready to go home, I’m ready to go home.’ And now that I’m actually being forced to go home because of this virus and everything going on, I’m pretty sad. I feel like this is the most important time. We finished first place in the regular season. We just won a Cup so we’re on a high going into the playoffs, so for it to just be canceled like that, that’s crazy.”

Hill led Team ZKK to its first Milan Ciga Vasojevic Cup championship with a 76-73 victory over Radivoj Korać Beograd on March 15. ZKK went 17-1 in the Serbian League this season and Hill, as a rookie, was the team’s top scorer and averaged 13.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

Unlike the NBA, which announced on March 11 that its season would be suspended indefinitely, the Serbian League was one of the last leagues in Europe to suspend play and the Milan Ciga Vasojević Cup would be the last game of the season. That game was played without spectators, as health officials ruled that only essential employees should be in attendance.

“Playing in the Cup championship without an audience was pretty dry,” Hill said. “The team that I’m on, they’ve never won a Cup before. They’ve never been an extremely good team until this year. With them being first, we always had a big crowd. So playing in this game, which is like one of the biggest games of the year besides the playoffs, but making it to this game and not having a crowd was totally different.”

Shakyla Hill with the Milan Ciga Vasojević Cup championship trophy.

Shakyla Hill

Since her freshman year in college, Hill has steadily improved her game. While at Grambling, she led the team to two Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships and four winning seasons. The Lady Tigers were 5-24 this past season, their first season under .500 since 2014-15, before Hill came on board.

While a senior at Grambling, she recorded her second quadruple-double against SWAC rival Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Feb. 2, 2019; her first came on Jan. 3, 2018, against Alabama State. At the time, the feat was the first quadruple-double in women’s basketball in almost 25 years.

She described her first season with Team ZKK as “second to none.” Her teammates were very helpful in her transition to a foreign country and helpful with translating for her, especially since her coach did not speak English.

“My experience was probably one of the best experiences as far as a rookie goes,” Hill told the Undefeated. “Many rookies probably don’t have a team like I had. I had a very friendly team that helped with everything. On top of that, winning a Cup was icing on the cake. Cups are the biggest thing besides the playoffs. So like I said, bringing it back was the icing.”

Now that the season is canceled, Hill has a lot of free time since she has not been home since November 2019. She’ll spend most of her time with family and friends.

“I’m excited about going home but I’m sad about how I have to leave,” Hill said. “Maybe the first week I’m just not gonna think about basketball. I’m going to enjoy my family, enjoy being at home and then I’ll take that step thinking about staying in shape and worrying about if that season will continue in Serbia.”

Because there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Serbia before she left, Hill said she isn’t too worried about being tested. Still, she is upset about how it postponed or possibly canceled the season for her and her teammates.

Even though she’s thousands of miles away from teammates now, she still talks to them daily through the team’s group message.

“I talk to my teammates almost every day because our season hasn’t been officially canceled yet,” Hill said. “We talk about everything. Crack jokes … ‘if the season is gonna end, kids’ … everything.

“It’s weird when you build a life, like with new people and new routines, and have to come home and adapt to that.”

Deja Harrison is a sophomore mass communication major from New Orleans. She is a Gramblinite Sports writer and GSU-TV reporter at Grambling State.