North Linn's Jake Hilmer is the king of dish

Sophomore guard leads state in assists, threatens state record

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TROY MILLS — Jake Hilmer just won’t do it. He refuses.

He loves his baby sister, Jori. Loves holding her and playing with her.

But when it comes to changing diapers, that’s where the line has been drawn. There’s no way, no how, no chance.

Absolutely true to his point-guard ways, it’s time to pass. In this case, dish her off to someone else.

“No diapers at home,” the North Linn super sophomore said. “I’ll do a lot with my sister, but that is one thing I’ve kind of said no to. I told my mom and dad, ‘Hey, I’ll change my own kid’s diapers, but not hers. It’s all you guys on that.’”

No one statistically has been better at the art of the pass this boys’ basketball season than Hilmer. His 254 assists lead the state by a wide margin.

He is the offensive catalyst for a North Linn team that is 25-0, top ranked and top seeded going into this week’s state tournament in Des Moines. The Lynx play Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto (18-7) in a Class 1A quarterfinal Monday afternoon at 12:15.

• A look at Monday's state basketball games

“Assists is one where I like that stat,” Hilmer said. “That shows how good your teammates are. You can’t get an assist unless the guy you’re throwing it to scores the ball, so that is one stat that I really take pride in. I think it’s almost a team stat. ... But, really, the only stat I’m worried about for Monday is a 1-0 record.”

You first heard about Hilmer two years ago when he helped a young North Linn baseball team to the Class 1A state semifinals. He was the team’s ace pitcher and shortstop as an eighth grader.

But he comes from a hoops family. His dad, Mike, has been North Linn’s head coach for 18 years, his grandpa, Bob, joining the staff as co-coach last season.

Bob Hilmer is the state’s all-time winningest head coach.

“I know when my dad first came to one of our open gyms a couple of years ago, he said to me ‘Boy, is Jake fast,’” Mike Hilmer said. “I just think for his age, he manages the court really well. He knows the game so well. He’s one of those kids who played baseball in the backyard, thinking the game or whatever. In the driveway with basketball, it was the same thing.

“Some nights, those assists he gets are pretty quiet. One of those things where maybe he scores 18 points, you get home and (the stats) say he had 11 assists. So you look at the film, and, sure enough, he had 11.”

Hilmer’s 21.7-point scoring average also leads North Linn, slightly ahead of junior guard Ryan Miller. He is so dangerous with the basketball in the open floor that Clayton Ridge intentionally fouled him multiple times when the teams played their 1A substate final.

The Eagles thought it was better to slow the pace and give up a foul than a very possible layup or 3-pointer.

“The nice thing is he’s playing on a team where you can’t just say ‘Hey, we’re going to stop Jake Hilmer because there are no other players on the team,’” Mike Hilmer said. “If you try and do that, you’re opening up other doors. He’s been really, really fortunate to play on the teams he’s played on.”

There are no seniors on this North Linn club, with Hilmer one of three sophomore starters. The bulk of the Lynx have grown up playing ball together since they were in second and third grade.

They surely have a lot more wins ahead of them, Hilmer some individual records. He is within shouting distance of the state single-season assists mark, set by Lone Tree’s Jeff Spears in 1999 (297 of them).

With 458 through almost two varsity seasons, he is on pace to destroy the state’s career assists record of 784. Former University of Iowa guard Jack Brownlee set that at Fort Dodge St. Edmond playing from 1997 to 2000.

“I think I’m a high-risk, high-reward player,” Jake Hilmer said. “We’re going up and down pretty fast, so maybe not always making the right decision. But you’re never going to do that. I’d say if there’s an area where I need to improve, it’d be getting a quicker jump shot. And also on-ball defense at times. That’s stuff you’re always thinking about as a player.”

He has thought about college already, too, and that will be a basketball thing, not a baseball thing. Hilmer isn’t big at 5-foot-11, but he is determined to play college hoops at a high level.

“I’m a small guard, not overly athletic,” Jake said. “I don’t really care, though. I want to beat some odds, I think I’ve got a chip on my shoulder on the basketball court. Going to a small 1A school, (playing college ball) doesn’t happen a lot. But I want to try and make it happen for myself. By the time it’s all said and done, I just want to be able to reach my full potential. Hopefully that is good enough to play at a university, a Division I school.”

“To be honest with you, when he was in sixth and seventh grade, I really pushed him to want to become a college baseball player,” Mike Hilmer said. “He was such a good contact hitter, such a good pitcher and has such a good glove at shortstop, I thought if you can pitch and play in the field, play shortstop or outfield or wherever, that would be a good path. But he has always had a passion for basketball. His goal is to play college basketball. I just told him ‘Follow whatever you want to follow.’”

And maybe offer to help change a diaper every once in awhile, too, Jake.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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