Hamilton won’t be rooting for Herd
RICHMOND, Ky. — A.W. Hamilton’s debut as a major-college basketball head coach is against the team he roots for every other day of the season.
Hamilton is prepared for the job as Eastern Kentucky University’s first-season coach after being at N.C. State last season as an assistant and six successful seasons before that as the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia.
Eastern Kentucky hosts Marshall University at 7 p.m. Wednesday to open the season in McBrayer Arena.
“It’s a weird feeling,” said Hamilton, the Marshall point guard and team captain from 2002 to 2005 when he led the Thundering Herd in assists, steals and minutes played. “I’m a die-hard fan (of Marshall). For one game this year I have to root against them.”
Hamilton is a native of Georgetown, Kentucky, and led Scott County High School to a state championship in 1998 and state runner-up finish in 1999. He was the starting point guard at Hargrave Military in the 1999-2000 season before signing with Wake Forest University. He was at Wake Forest for a year and a half before transferring to Marshall.
After completing his playing career he was a Marshall graduate assistant for the 2005-06 season.
He was the head coach of one of the top prep school programs in the nation at Hargrave Military from 2011 to 2017. He averaged 40 wins a season (237-22) and the Tigers won the 2016 National Prep Championship. Hamilton was the National Prep Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2016.
Eastern Kentucky was picked for eighth place this season in the 12-team Ohio Valley Conference.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Hamilton said. “We’ve won 16 (conference) games in the last three years. We haven’t been in the OVC tournament the last three years.”
The Colonels have a nice building block, however, with 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior Nick Mayo at forward. Mayo, a possible NBA Draft selection, is a three-time All-OVC first team player who led last season’s team with 18 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The only other returning starter is 6-2 sophomore guard Jacquez Hobbs (5.9 ppg).
Jordan Oakley and Kelvin Robinson, 6-5 and 6-2 respectively, are junior college transfer guards.
Hamilton said it’s a good time to be a Marshall fan because head coach Dan D’Antoni has created excitement and has the program going in the right direction.
He said the Thundering Herd backcourt combination of seniors Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks is as good as anybody in the country.
“Those two guards give them a chance against anybody,” Hamilton said.