ANACONDA — Braxton Hill had a senior year for the record books.
The former Anaconda Copperhead broke the school’s all-time scoring record on the basketball floor and signed his National Letter of Intent to play college football at the University of Montana — all while playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Hill had surgery to repair the tear on March 20 in Missoula. Playing through the injury, Hill finished his career with 1,924 points, breaking the 68-year-old scoring record set by former Minnesota Golden Gopher and Minneapolis Laker Ed Kalafat. Hill averaged 20.46 points per game over his career.
Hill’s torn labrum required five anchors and sutures to repair. The timetable for Hill’s return to full strength is around six months, so he won’t be able to suit up for the Grizzlies in the fall. Instead, Hill will grayshirt his freshman season, meaning he’ll postpone his enrollment until the second term of the freshman year. Hill will take online classes in Anaconda during the fall semester and then enroll in Missoula in January, where he will join the team for winter conditioning and spring practices.
Once Hill is fully recovered, he will join the Griz linebacker corps. During Hill’s junior season at Anaconda, he recorded 113 total tackles in eight games. In just five quarters of action his senior season, Hill registered 31 total tackles.
“I rehab six days a week, give it a break on Sundays and ice. Maybe a month ago I just started jogging. I was pretty out of shape from sitting in a sling for a while,” Hill said in mid-June. “I’m kind of getting my cardio back, starting to get into things.”
Hill started his rehab by doing simple exercises such as shoulder raises and rows to regain the strength he lost in his surgically repaired shoulder.
“It’s been a process,” Hill continued. “First day, you don’t even do weight. A couple weeks later, you’re doing two pounds, four pounds, and you just build your way up. It’s a really long process. It is what it is. I can’t really help it, so there’s no point in getting frustrated.”
Hill kept his recruitment open through the summer going into his senior year, telling coaches he could play either football or basketball. It wasn’t until he tore his labrum that he recognized football as the sport he needed to play. Hill said he was devastated to be missing time on the field, and at that point he decided he wanted to play football at the next level rather than basketball.
Since having the surgery, Hill has had to miss numerous all-star events. He recently had to watch former Anaconda teammate Trent Mikalatos, who has signed with the University of Providence for basketball, play in the Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series, which the Montana boys and girls teams swept. In July, Hill will be watching friends and future teammates play in the 72nd annual Montana East-West Shrine Game.
“It’s been a bummer,” Hill said of missing the all-star games. “I just try to support (all my friends), tell them good luck, represent. I got to play in an all-star game in Butte, and that was the last game I ever played in for basketball. I never got to play in one for football. It really sucked, those are fun games. I’ll never get to play in them, but that’s all right. It’s best for me to heal up.”
The only all-star game Hill participated in was the Southwest Montana All-Star Classic at the Montana Tech HPER Complex. Hill poured in 24 points for the Treasure State squad, but they ultimately fell to the Big Sky all-stars, 101-94.
Although he never showcased his abilities at the state’s top all-star games, Hill leaves Anaconda as a legend in the Copperheads’ athletic programs. Now, he turns his attention to the University of Montana, where he will look to leave another lasting legacy.