His days of being a student-athlete are done, but the work is far from over for former Oakland University basketball player, Reggie Hamilton.
Hamilton is at the Athletics Center O’Rena—a place that has become home for him the last three years—six, or seven, days per week, working hard to become an even better player.
It’s surprising, since he was the nation’s leading scorer in 2011-12, but Hamilton has a lot to prove to NBA teams if he wants to become the second player in Oakland history selected in the NBA Draft (Keith Benson was drafted 48th overall in 2011).
The workouts have been hard on Hamilton, but he knows that it will only better prepare him for the next level.
“A couple of workouts I’ve been going through, it’s felt like I just wanted to break down and say, ‘You know what, forget basketball,’” Hamilton said. “This is not what I want … I always thought I’ve been a hard worker, but this is a whole other level, what I’m doing right now.”
Luckily for Hamilton, he was raised to have a strong work ethic. That has shown in his relentless pursuit of achieving his goal of playing in the NBA.
The work ethic Hamilton prides himself on comes from his mother, Deborah Horne, who has always worked hard to make sure her children were taken care of.
There is no denying the important role that Horne has played in her son’s life, especially off the court.
“My mother—I call her ‘The Reason,’” Hamilton said. “She’s the reason why I do a lot of what I do. I just want to be able to, someday, give back to her.”
Horne’s even keel presence was especially important for Hamilton after losses.
“She tells me the same thing, ‘You know this game. God got you covered, go out there and play the game,’” Hamilton said.
In Chicago, Hamilton grew up playing against some of the best, and well known, basketball players—collegiately and professionally—in recent years.
Hamilton was able to play against Derrick Rose, Jacob Pullen, and Demetri McCamey, and other great players in AAU basketball.
“Coming up in Chicago basketball is tough, man,” Hamilton said. “Everybody’s out there hungry and it’s a dog fight every game.”
Hamilton credits playing superb talent for helping him get to where he is today.
Coming out of high school, Hamilton was not as highly ranked as those athletes and it pushed him to get better every day.
But, Hamilton’s play was good enough to earn a D-I basketball scholarship to the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC). And the impact he made there was immediate.
Hamilton started 21 games as a freshman at UMKC and was named to the Summit League All-Newcomer Team at the end of the season.
Surprisingly, Hamilton’s top scoring performance as a freshman came against Oakland when he scored 23 points.
Despite facing some struggles his sophomore year, Hamilton finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game.
Following his sophomore year at UMKC, Hamilton, for unknown reasons, asked for his release from the team.
“Probably the toughest moment in my basketball career was going through the transfer process,” Hamilton said. “You’re packing up, you’re leaving all your friends. When I first got to UMKC, I had this mindset; this is where I’m going to make my mark. I’m going to be a great player here.”
Johnathon Jones, a former star for Oakland’s basketball team, was a junior when Hamilton decided to transfer from UMKC.
Having played against Hamilton for two seasons, Jones told Oakland head coach Greg Kampe that he needed Hamilton at Oakland. Jones believed that practicing against each other on a daily basis would make both of them great players.
“We called Kansas City (UMKC), we got a release, and Johnathon Jones did all the work,” Kampe said. “Called him, convinced him to come here. We brought him in on a visit and he decided to come.”
The respect between Jones and Hamilton was mutual.
“He was always a big guard in the league that I looked up to,” Hamilton said. “I always checked his box score. I wanted to do better than JJ, I thought I was better than JJ … So, for him to reach out for me, I think that was huge. I’m glad he did that because it changed my life.”
Interestingly, Kampe admitted to not being invested in Hamilton during the recruiting process. This was because Kampe was under the impression—which turned out to be false—that Hamilton had issues at UMKC.
Hamilton signed with Oakland and enrolled in August of 2009. But, because of NCAA transfer rules, he was not allowed to participate in games during the 2009-10 season.
That was OK with Hamilton. Not only was he allowed to practice against his mentor, Jones, on a daily basis, but he was also able to thoroughly learn Oakland’s offense and his teammates’ tendencies.
“It wasn’t that hard at all,” Hamilton said. “You got a chance to just relax and get better. And what’s better than working on your craft for a whole year? I honestly thought my body had needed a year off from traveling and things like that.”
When he was finally able to take the court, it did not take long for Hamilton to become a key component of Oakland’s success.
After coming off the bench in his first game at Oakland, Hamilton started 70 consecutive games in the last two seasons.
From day one, Hamilton established himself as one of the best basketball players in Oakland history.
Hamilton was named a first team All-Summit selection each of the last two years. He was also named to the Lou Henson All-America Team as a senior.
Scoring, however, has always been the best aspect of Hamilton’s game.
During his senior season, Hamilton scored over 30 points 17 times. That included a streak of eight straight games with over 30 points from Feb. 4 to March 14.
Even more impressively, Hamilton had a knack for putting up big offensive numbers against some of the top teams in the nation.
At Oakland, Hamilton played eight games against ranked opponents and averaged 15 points per game.
“I was always told, the bigger the state, the bigger the performance,” Hamilton said. “I’m just competitive and I don’t want anybody to think they’re just going to come out there and see Oakland University and just try to walk all over us.”
Hamilton definitely stepped up his play on the biggest stage. In the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Hamilton scored a game-high 25 points in Oakland’s loss to the Texas Longhorns. He also had six rebounds and five assists in the game.
“Oakland didn’t play its best in that game,” Matt Pocket, Oakland student and basketball play, said. “But Reggie kept them alive in the second half and gave them a legitimate chance to win. He was pretty spectacular in that game. And with the nation watching, he put himself and Oakland in the spotlight, once again.”
It was a big game for Hamilton to flourish because, according to Kampe, there were NBA scouts in attendance watching three Longhorns players.
“I think Reggie always felt that he could play in the NBA,” Kampe said. “The first time it really came on my radar screen was in the NCAA Tournament against Texas … I started hearing from NBA scouts, you know, ‘Who is this guy, who is Reggie Hamilton?’”
Even with the awards and accolades Hamilton has garnered at Oakland, he prides himself on not believing he’s bigger than Oakland, or the game of basketball.
That fact hasn’t been lost on students, broadcasters, or fans, either.
“Reggie is the definition of personable,” Bryan Everson, Oakland student and color commentator for Oakland basketball, said. “He’s just one of the greatest guys you would want to know. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that’s meant something on and off the floor for leadership and chemistry.”
Hamilton shows off his personable side in another hobby he has—Twitter.
“It’s fun,” Hamilton said. “Twitter is entertainment. My goal everyday is to make someone laugh. Whether it’s in the physical, or on Twitter or Facebook.”
For as good as Hamilton is on the court, his play doesn’t compare to how great of a tweeter he is.
The fans have definitely embraced Hamilton on social media.
With over 1,800 followers, and having tweeted over 41,000 times, Hamilton sometimes has to be careful of what he says. Especially with the Oakland’s athletic communications department keeping a close eye on his account.
“You just gotta watch yourself,” Hamilton said. “People that know what I’m trying to do and trying to accomplish, you know, they respect that. So they try their best to watch what they tweet.”
But don’t worry; Hamilton’s love of Twitter hasn’t resulted in him losing sight of his dream to become an NBA player.
Despite being the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 26 points per game, this season, there are no guarantees that Hamilton will be drafted.
“His issues, I think, are going to be, is he big enough, cause he doesn’t have the prototype NBA body,” Kampe said. “Then defensively they’re going to want to know if he can guard that prototype body … that’s going to be the determining factors on where, or if, he gets drafted.”
At 5’11” and 176 pounds, Hamilton knows that he will be undersized in the NBA. Because of that, he likely won’t be able to be the prolific scorer he was in college. But, there are other aspects of his game that he wants to put on display for teams.
“I don’t think I get a lot of credit for my point guard ability,” Hamilton said. “Even though I averaged 26 points per game, I also averaged five assists (per game), as well … I’ll be able to show NBA teams that I can get others involved, as well as get my own, when I need to.”
As for the defensive concerns, they are very real. According to Hamilton, scouts from the Utah Jazz have told him that they don’t question his ability to score. But, they need to find out if he’ll be a capable defender and strong enough to get through screens.
Hamilton admits that defense will be his biggest challenge going forward. But, he says that he’ll put any concerns to rest by putting in hard work in the weight room.
“He’s gonna make money somewhere,” Kampe said. “Is that the NBA, is that Europe, is that Australia? You know, who knows what that is, the next two months are gonna tell.”
There is no question that Hamilton has been one of the best players to put on the Oakland uniform.
The question of whether his number will be retired is for later discussion. Right now, Hamilton remains focused on one thing—the NBA.
But, for as difficult as it will be for fans not to see Hamilton in the Oakland uniform ever again, it will be equally as difficult for him.
“My favorite moment is just coming out in the O’Rena,” Hamilton said. “Looking in the stands, seeing the Grizz Gang, seeing all my family and all my friends, you know, people who see you everyday and want you to do great things. Those moments are better than cutting down the net and getting rings.”
If all goes as planned, the next time we see Hamilton, he will be holding up the jersey of the NBA team that drafts him on June 28.