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Nick Hamilton Reflects On Time At Cal

April 4, 2018
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For someone whose overall scoring average was less than a point and a half a game, Nick Hamilton just concluded a most remarkable career at Cal.

Mike Montgomery's coaching staff all but ignored the 6-3 guard when he was coming out of high school in Inglewood, California. Four years later, Wyking Jones made him a team captain.

Hamilton, a Pac-12 All-Academic team selection this past season, sat down with Bear Insider’s Eric McCullough for a podcast to recount his intriguing journey.

Obviously an outstanding student, Hamilton set his sights on Cal while at Westchester High. Despite having a fine prep playing career to go with a transcript of straight A’s, he was unable to earn even the status of “walk-on” at Berkeley.  Montgomery's staff told him he could not be on the team.  Hamilton came north anyway,

By the time Hamilton arrived, Cuonzo Martin had replaced Montgomery as head coach.  “So when I get there, Coach (Marco) Harris sets up a meeting with me with Coach Martin,” Hamilton said. “And he tells me that I wasn’t going to be able to work out (with the team), but he said feel free to come to workouts and they were at 5:30 in the morning.”

“Coach (Marco) Harris  told me that there was nothing really guaranteed as far as a walk-on position because they pretty much have their roster and who they wanted on their team,” Hamilton said. “And then he just told me to come for the summer and when I get there to meet with them and then we’d kinda go from there.”

Undaunted by the early wake-up, Hamilton dutifully attended the sessions even though he could not get on the court with the team because of his unofficial status.  He attended eight of nine weeks of morning practices, 5:30 every day, simply as an observer.  The only week he missed was for summer midterms.   But the persistence paid off.

About halfway through the nine-week session, Martin asked Hamilton to take a physical.

“So I’m just like, in my head, I’m like maybe, there’s no way they’re asking me to do a physical and they’re not gonna put me on the team,” Hamilton said. He excitedly called his father, who cautioned him not to get over confident.

“So I didn’t get my hopes up too high because I got physically cleared,” he said, “I think a week or two before the end of the program and I didn’t start working out so I was like, ‘Okay maybe, maybe not.’

"So then the last day after summer workouts are over, Coach Martin called me into the office. He asked me about the team. He asked me about the guys. Like how my relationships were with everyone, and then asked if the guys worked hard over the summer, like basically what I thought."

“I said 'yes,' pretty much everybody was working hard, and he asked me if I would work hard for him if he was my coach. And I said yes, definitely. And then he reached over and shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to the team.’ “

Hamilton enjoyed playing for Martin, or more accurately, having Martin as his coach. He appeared in just five games as a freshman (2014-15), sat out the following season with an injury and got into just 20 games in 2016-17.

 “It was a great experience.  He’s a great Coach.  He’s very entertaining,” Hamilton said. “Off the court, he makes sure you know that you’re part of his family...  .  He and the rest of the staff, they all kind of have this family-oriented style, and I think that’s what he carried over there to Missouri as well.  But he just wants you to know ... it’s something beyond basketball.  Because one of his mottos is just kind of preaching (that) he’s turning us into men."

“So it’s not just about basketball.  It’s not what you do only on hardwood, it’s just how you’re prepared as a man to step into the next journey in your life.”

Hamilton and a few of his teammates had a little fun at Martin’s expense.

“On the court, he was just a hardnosed guy.  He always had his hardhat on.  Like you knew he worked hard.  He’d even show us highlights of him back in the day.  So I remember one time, he always talked about like he never misses an assignment because he’d always get on us.  ‘I don’t miss assignments.  I never miss assignments.’  So some of us found a film, somebody hit a shot on him and then we were like 'no hands on the catch!'  So it was funny.  We kinda ribbed him.  We were like, ‘No hands on a catch.  No stance.  No talking.’  I forgot his reasoning.  His reason was just hilarious!  [Laughter.]”

During that season Hamilton developed a relationship with Wyking Jones, who was an assistant at the time.

“So me and Coach Wy, we got pretty close once I found out he was from Inglewood,” Hamilton said. “So that  instantly connected us because we had a lot to talk about. Rogers Park. That’s out here in Inglewood. A lot of things in LA. That’s where it started. And then him being with a national championship team (at Louisville), I always wanted to  pick his brain a little bit."

Very shortly after the 2016-17 season ended with the loss to Cal State-Bakersfield in the first round of the NIT, Martin announced he was leaving to become head coach at Missouri. Initially Jones was named “interim head coach.”

“That was super exciting.  And then after the meeting, so everyone was happy (for Jones),” Hamilton said. “After everybody talked to Coach Wy like congratulating him, and then we were in that weird stage where we didn’t know if he was gonna still stay the head coach or if it was gonna be a new coach.”

Hamilton was on schedule to graduate early.  Given the paucity of playing time in previous seasons, was uncertain if he was going to return to the team. He had told Jones as much even before Martin left. Then he got a phone call from Jones.

“I said, ‘Coach, I don’t know.  I have a chance to graduate early; I might graduate early and I’m just trying to see what else is out there.  And I don’t now if I want to play my last year,’ “ Hamilton recalled.

“He had just gotten the (permanent) head coaching job, he calls me within maybe within five minutes and says, ‘Nick man, I want you to play for me.  I need you to play this last year.  I just need your senior leadership.'"

“ ‘It’s gonna be a big year for us to—we’re gonna have a lot of freshmen.  We’re gonna need some extra bodies.’ ” 

Jones assured Hamilton he would receive playing time. “And he was like, ‘You’re gonna play.’  He said, ‘You might play one minute.  You might play 30 minutes.  I don’t know.  I can’t guarantee that.  That’s going to be on you.  But I know you’re gonna play and I know you’re gonna have a big impact for this team.’ ”

So Hamilton stayed.  He was named team captain and played in 31 of the 32 games in the Bears' forgettable 8-24 season. He had been on an academic scholarship until this year, when Jones awarded him a full-ride athletic scholarship in January.

Although his stats were not particularly impressive, 1.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game, Hamilton contributed by helping insure the Bears never stopped giving a good effort.

“I just feel like, because I have always worked hard my whole like, I felt like that was one thing I was able to get guys to keep doing for the most part.  I felt like I was able to keep (pushing) guys to keep working hard like, ‘Hey, we didn’t get this one.  The next one’s ours.’  Like that was it.  That was pretty much our motto.  Every time, we had to look forward.  We had to move forward because if you just stay looking in the past, you’re gonna be stuck there.  So, that was my approach every practice.  Because I remember I was telling the coach, I’m like, I give my all.  All I want to do is make sure everyone else is giving their all.” 

Hamilton’s personal highlight was against St. Mary’s, when he went 7-for-7 from the floor and scored 16 points in the 72-63 loss.

“I knew it was a big game. I knew from playing St. Mary’s, it’s a rival. They’re always pretty much a top 25 team,” he said. “It was never my mindset to score. I was always a team first guy. So I just knew that I had to do my part because everyone was gonna have to do their part if we were going to beat that team.

“So coming in, I just felt good that day. I felt like I was ready to play. I was ready to go and then I got a couple of early lay-ups.  Then Don (Coleman) hit me one time and I made the corner three and then once I made that corner three I was really feeling it. I was like okay like I’m good then kept getting easy passes from Marcus (Lee) because they kept doubling him and I kept getting easy little lay-ups and then that game it just felt great just going through it. I think I had my career high minutes as well. I think I played 31 minutes that game. … So it was just a great feeling to be out there for that long and actually have an impact. Of course, I wish we could’ve won.”

Hamilton’s selection to the Pac-12 All-Academic team was the only post season honor the Bears received. Hamilton’s father, a demanding perfectionist who once wanted to know why Nick got an A-minus instead of an A in high school, was pleased.

“He was happy that I played this year so I can get the award,” Nick said. The elder Hamilton had wondered why the honor did not come sooner given Nick's academic record, unaware that to be eligible a player must play in at least half the games. “So he was happy I was able to play this year and it led to this award. So he was excited that my academic excellence was recognized.”

Although Hamilton will graduate and move on, the Bears might not have seen the last of him. They might spot him on the USC bench, sitting next to head coach Andy Enfield.

“I’m going to grad school at USC in Post-Secondary Administration in Student Affairs with a sub-specialization in Athletic Administration. So with that, I plan on being a graduate assistant coach with USC, and that’s the first order of business while I’m out here (in Los Angeles).”

His ultimate goal is a career in athletics, although not necessarily coaching.

“I’m also looking to do possible internships. Whether it’s coaching internships, I just spoke with someone from the Clippers about possibly working over there or also working with something in Sports Management. And down the line I know, I know sports is just something that’s always been like a big part of my life and so whether it’s coaching, sports management, or sports law, I haven’t really figured it out yet, but I know those are kinda like the three paths I’m leaning towards. … So I’m really looking forward to these next two years and what the future has for me.”

It is indeed looking bright for Nick Hamilton.  A marvelous individual who personifies what it means to be a Golden Bear.  We look forward to following him on his continued journey, combining academic and athletic excellence.

Listen to the full interview between Eric and Nick here

Discussion from...

Nick Hamilton Reflects On Time At Cal

concordtom
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Fantastic opening sentence! Congrats, Nick.

But sentence #2 mis-states his height.
When Nick first arrived, he was 6'4" and marketed as an undersized interior battler with long arms and an even bigger heart. His fan club posted on here all the time how he played center for Westchester.
But by this year, at least, he was listed at 6'3" and played a scrappy and energetic guard position. To now read that he's 6'1"? Either we've been lied to all this time or there is a typo.
EricBear
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6'3". Corrected.
concordtom
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Wow. Great article.

1. That's a crazy story about how he got onto the team. What persistence. 90% of guys (if not 99%) wouldn't have followed thru to earn it like that. Great handshake moment, "Welcome to the team."

2. Queue Whitney Houston, "Give me one... moment... in time". 16 points in a meaningful D1 game. Awesome! Tons of guys never achieve that, either!!!

3. Go for the sports management or sports law, Nick. Mold young men, represent them, collect your fees that way. The coaching income is great if you can get to the top, but is brutal with all the firing and hiring and relocations. At least, that's what I think. I think you could be part of some business dealings that would clear you enough money, and make for a nicer lifestyle. But what do I know...

Best of luck.
concordtom
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Well done, Eric!

What is Nick doing in LA already? What courses does he have this semester and how's he finishing that up if he's not going to be around Berkeley physically?
EricBear
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Thanks Tom. Thanks to David Bush, as well, for his work on this.

Nick was in LA for spring break. We had a nice networking lunch for him, and he did his Clippers and USC interviews, among other things.

Can you imagine showing up at 5:30 in the morning for eight weeks, just to sit and watch the guys play? The team would then go and lift weights, he would attend that as well but could not even lift with them.

He is incredibly impressive.
Big C
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EricBear said:

Thanks Tom. Thanks to David Bush, as well, for his work on this.

Nick was in LA for spring break. We had a nice networking lunch for him, and he did his Clippers and USC interviews, among other things.

Can you imagine showing up at 5:30 in the morning for eight weeks, just to sit and watch the guys play? The team would then go and lift weights, he would attend that as well but could not even lift with them.

He is incredibly impressive.
Geez, I had trouble making my 8:00 classes at Cal...
concordtom
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Can you imagine showing up at 5:30 in the morning for eight weeks, just to sit and watch the guys play?

No.
I can't!!!!

I went to SDSU and it was "impacted". Too many students, not enough classes. As a frosh, they gave us all our classes, but next in the pecking order are seniors, then juniors, then sophomores. Therefore, as a soph, I got only 7 units (2 plus a lab). They tell you to "crash" classes, which means you have to do what Nick did with the hoops team. I'd look up the 20 sections of English (or what have your, x 4 other courses) and pick a host of classes to drop in on and hope that the teacher would sign my Admit sheet. You'd spend your first 2-3 weeks attending classes (along with 50 other people) in hopes that they would actually allow you into the class. I might have gone to 3 English classes those weeks, 3 Spanish classes, 3 Chemistry.... you get the idea. There was no time left for anything else.

After a couple weeks, I gave up and decided to just have fun that semester. It was a joke and I resent the hell out of the CSU system for thinking that is acceptable. Look at this PDF, which shows every Major offered at every CSU campus. There are several campuses where EVERY SINGLE MAJOR is impacted. How the hell are you gonna graduate if you can't get courses?

https://www.calstate.edu/sas/documents/impactedprogramsmatrix.pdf

My eldest is a high school senior and I've told her not to look at large "impacted" schools. There is a reason why the Freshman Retention Rate is low. There's a reason why the 4/5/6 year Graduation Rates are so low.

Here's a post regarding similar stuff for UC, and I wonder what others might have to say about it. My daughter was accepted to UCSD. She's got a 1420 SAT, is a valedictorian candidate with only 1 A- and a 4.38 GPA, yet was waitlisted at SLO and denied at UCSB. I have no idea why she did not want to apply to Berkeley, UCLA or Davis. I cannot believe with those amazing marks that she got denied at SB and waitlisted at (any) CSU school. But I digress...
http://cacollegetransfer.com/2016/05/selective-capped-majors-at-each-uc/



I transfered to American University in DC. Smaller, private, able to devote attention to me so that I could actually matriculate. That's the type of environment I'd favor. Even my Dad (Cal, 1964-ish) said that Berkeley was a zoo, as there were 500 students in a course that was taught by some TA. He said a kid once raised his hand during a lecture and said, "I don't understand" and the professor responded, "we do not have time for understanding".

I admire that Nick never let any of those obstacles laid in front of him stop him from his dream. He's a better man than me.
concordtom
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What's the Clippers meeting about? Did I miss that?
edit: never mind.

"Whether it's coaching internships, I just spoke with someone from the Clippers about possibly working over there or also working with something in Sports Management."
concordtom
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Big C said:

Geez, I had trouble making my 8:00 classes at Cal...
Or the Spring semester Monday night "Intro to Business Law" class.
Can't mess with Championship Monday for crying out loud.
NewYorkCityBear
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"He had been on an academic scholarship until this year, when Jones awarded him a full-ride athletic scholarship in January."

I remember mentioning at the time it became clear we would have some open schollys that I hoped Hamilton might get one.

I also remember some other patronizing poster saying "It's been long known Nick is already on an academic scholarship."

I think someone owes me an apology.
concordtom
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So, what's the difference between being on academic vs athletic scholarship?
If his $ was being paid for by the academic till, then why bother converting to the athletic bucket?

Oh: I guess that says that he lost his academic scholarship this year? Why would that be????
NewYorkCityBear
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concordtom said:

So, what's the difference between being on academic vs athletic scholarship?
If his $ was being paid for by the academic till, then why bother converting to the athletic bucket?

Oh: I guess that says that he lost his academic scholarship this year? Why would that be????
Athletic scholarships have the advantage of 'training table' benefits (meals) and I believe they more fully cover housing costs.

While the article does not explicitly say if he might have lost his academic scholarship (only that he was on one until this year), many academic scholarships require a certain course load to be renewed. If he was near early graduation, he may have not carried enough credits to maintain that course load. Just guessing though.
EricBear
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Nick earned a Gates Millennium Scholarship out of high school. Here is some background information on the program.

http://www.gmsp.org/gates-millennium-scholars-program/

In short, the Gates Scholarship pays for whatever financial aid doesn't pay. For example, if it costs $20k for a year of schooling and financial aid provides $15k, Gates provides the other $5k. It is not a full scholarship in any sense, but is instead a stipend to cover any amounts not paid via financial aid or other sources. As I understand it, the Gates Scholarship does not cover housing costs or things like that.

The full athletic scholarship Nick received was significant, for purposes of housing and other costs not covered by the Gates Scholarship.

Also, the Gates Scholarship continues into certain types of graduate programs, including the one in which Nick is enrolling at USC, so he continues to reap the reward of his hard work and academic excellence.
EricBear
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socaliganbear
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Is he going there primarily for the grad program, or is the grad program the ticket to work under Enfield?
socaliganbear
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concordtom said:

Can you imagine showing up at 5:30 in the morning for eight weeks, just to sit and watch the guys play?

No.
I can't!!!!

I went to SDSU and it was "impacted". Too many students, not enough classes. As a frosh, they gave us all our classes, but next in the pecking order are seniors, then juniors, then sophomores. Therefore, as a soph, I got only 7 units (2 plus a lab). They tell you to "crash" classes, which means you have to do what Nick did with the hoops team. I'd look up the 20 sections of English (or what have your, x 4 other courses) and pick a host of classes to drop in on and hope that the teacher would sign my Admit sheet. You'd spend your first 2-3 weeks attending classes (along with 50 other people) in hopes that they would actually allow you into the class. I might have gone to 3 English classes those weeks, 3 Spanish classes, 3 Chemistry.... you get the idea. There was no time left for anything else.

After a couple weeks, I gave up and decided to just have fun that semester. It was a joke and I resent the hell out of the CSU system for thinking that is acceptable. Look at this PDF, which shows every Major offered at every CSU campus. There are several campuses where EVERY SINGLE MAJOR is impacted. How the hell are you gonna graduate if you can't get courses?

https://www.calstate.edu/sas/documents/impactedprogramsmatrix.pdf

My eldest is a high school senior and I've told her not to look at large "impacted" schools. There is a reason why the Freshman Retention Rate is low. There's a reason why the 4/5/6 year Graduation Rates are so low.

Here's a post regarding similar stuff for UC, and I wonder what others might have to say about it. My daughter was accepted to UCSD. She's got a 1420 SAT, is a valedictorian candidate with only 1 A- and a 4.38 GPA, yet was waitlisted at SLO and denied at UCSB. I have no idea why she did not want to apply to Berkeley, UCLA or Davis. I cannot believe with those amazing marks that she got denied at SB and waitlisted at (any) CSU school. But I digress...
http://cacollegetransfer.com/2016/05/selective-capped-majors-at-each-uc/



I transfered to American University in DC. Smaller, private, able to devote attention to me so that I could actually matriculate. That's the type of environment I'd favor. Even my Dad (Cal, 1964-ish) said that Berkeley was a zoo, as there were 500 students in a course that was taught by some TA. He said a kid once raised his hand during a lecture and said, "I don't understand" and the professor responded, "we do not have time for understanding".

I admire that Nick never let any of those obstacles laid in front of him stop him from his dream. He's a better man than me.
Some kids need hand holding. Berkeley seems to find the kids that thrive without it, given that we have the same freshman retention and graduation rates as Stanford and USC.

As they say, Berkeley is not for everyone.

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/highest-grad-rate
EricBear
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socaliganbear said:

Is he going there primarily for the grad program, or is the grad program the ticket to work under Enfield?
Primarily for the grad program.
concordtom
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socaliganbear said:


As they say, Berkeley is not for everyone.

Of course!
Unless one is 7 feet tall, or can run really really fast, ha.
Big C
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Having that $C connection will enable him to tap into their alumni network in his native SoCal, too (not that he's going to have trouble finding employment). The sky's the limit for Nick Hamilton.
EricBear
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In light of what Nick described to me regarding how he made the team, this is particularly cool:



EricBear
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calumnus
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concordtom
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Why did you use the word "hazed"?
I didn't read that anywhere.

I guess you are replacing "did not want" with "haze". I read those definitions differently.

It's a fair question, though. Who wouldn't want a walk on with that level of drive and focus on your team? Rubs off. Good to have around and doesn't cost you anything.
EricBear
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concordtom said:

Why did you use the word "hazed"?
I didn't read that anywhere.

I guess you are replacing "did not want" with "haze". I read those definitions differently.

It's a fair question, though. Who wouldn't want a walk on with that level of drive and focus on your team? Rubs off. Good to have around and doesn't cost you anything.

Agreed - not sure why "hazed" is part of the discussion here.

Nick understood from his discussions with Montgomery's staff that there was not a place for him on the team. It happens. Nick re-visited the issue when Cuonzo became the head coach. Earned his spot by sheer dedication.
calumnus
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concordtom said:

Why did you use the word "hazed"?
I didn't read that anywhere.

I guess you are replacing "did not want" with "haze". I read those definitions differently.

It's a fair question, though. Who wouldn't want a walk on with that level of drive and focus on your team? Rubs off. Good to have around and doesn't cost you anything.



My bad, I misrembered/misread the article.

Nick was a great walk-on candidate. I hope similar student athletes in the future do not have to show quite as much perseverance to be given a shot.
EricBear
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concordtom
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Come on, Nick.
Just quit it.
You're hurting me.
;-)

(congrats - very good!)
Fyght4Cal
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His story is nothing short of amazing and gets more so every day. What a great man to have as a representative of Cal.
🎵There‚Äôs the Highland Dutch and the Lowland Dutch
The Rotterdam Dutch and Tim DeRuyter 🎶
EricBear
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EricBear
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EricBear
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EricBear
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EricBear
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More good Nick stuff:

EricBear
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Already miss this guy.

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