Davion Hill and Sheiana Tutler will be playing hundreds of miles from St. John Neumann next winter. And yet, in a sense, the soon-to-be graduates, feel like they are going home.
Hill and Tutler signed their national letters of intent Monday at Neumann’s Frank Lupacchino Court. Both will be playing Division I basketball; Hill at Missouri State and Tutler at Niagara. They each had several options but the family atmosphere cultivated at Neumann was one they were hoping to find in college and both believe they have.
“Missouri State is where I always wanted to go,” Hill said. “I wanted to go to a college that feels like home for me and where I can see myself playing for four years and I feel like Missouri State is that place.”
“I chose Niagara because I enjoy going to smaller schools,” Tutler said. “I’m excited for the new experience of learning on a different level.”
Hill and Tutler each played at a different level throughout their high school careers, so it seemed only natural they sign their letters of intent together.
Hill closed his high school career with one of the best seasons in area history. The four-year starter averaged a whopping 34.1 points per game, scoring a Lycoming County boys’ record 925. Hill obliterated the county single-season, single-game and career scoring records along the way.
Closing his career with a fabulous 50-point effort in a last-second loss against eventual Class AA state champion Lancaster Mennonite, Hill will graduate having scored 2,801 points, while averaging 26.9 per game. He never missed a game and was the ultimate winner.
In addition to helping Neumann win 80 games, Hill was a driving force on teams which won four straight league titles, three District 4 championships and the 2022 Class A Eastern Region crown. He also earned Class A and AA State Player of the Year honors the past two seasons and is the only player in area history to be named first team all-state all four years.
His talent, his resume and his work on the AAU circuit, meant Hill attracted a lot of attention. He had his choice of many Division I schools and, ultimately, narrowed the list to Ohio State, Arkansas and Missouri State.
He watched his oldest brother Alize Johnson shine at Missouri State and the kid in Hill won out. Back then, Hill envisioned himself doing great things at Missouri State and now he has that opportunity.
“It really felt like that’s where I belonged,” Hill said. “There were so many colleges, it was crazy, so it feels good to have that over now.”
Another appealing option by going to a so-called mid-major school is that Hill will not be battling against the backlog of players who have jammed rosters the last few years after the pandemic gave all an extra year of eligibility.
And it’s not the 1980s or 90s anymore. There really is not a big difference between the Blue Blood programs and the smaller schools. Just like at last March’s Final 4 which featured no seed higher than No. 4 and teams such as Florida Atlantic, San Diego State and Miami. Loyola, Chicago plays Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference and made a Final 4 appearance in 2018, while schools such as George Mason, Butler and VCU all have made Final 4 trips since 2006.
Put it all together and it feels like Hill could have the best of both worlds at Missouri State.
“There’s so many fifth-year seniors and Juco transfers coming at the highest level,” Hill said. “Now, you’re not sure who is going to win March Madness anymore. It used to be North Carolina and Duke, but now it feels like anywhere in the college game you can tear it up.”
Tutler tore it up while helping transform a Neumann program which had fallen on hard times. As a freshman, Tutler played on a one-win team but by her junior year she had helped it reach the state tournament.
And even after tearing her ACL in late February of 2022, Tutler came back stronger than before, averaging a double-double, earning all-state honors and helping Neumann reach the state quarterfinals for the first time. Tutler also guided Neumann to its first district final and consecutive state tournament appearances for the first time.
This past season, Neumann also tied the program record for wins. Tutler showed how dangerous she can be in the second round of states when she played Class A Player of the Year and Lasalle-bound Amber Bullard to a draw. Tutler made the go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing minute, scored her 1,000th career point on a clutch free throw and helped Neumann clinch the biggest win in program history.
After helping make all that happen, following nine months of grueling rehab, Tutler is eager for the next challenge.
“I imagine that I’ll be working,” Tutler said, “So I can get a comfortable position on the team.”
Time will tell how it plays out, but both Hill and Tutler are certainly comfortable about their decisions.