Saturday, February 18, 2017

'Old man' Isaac Hamilton is cleaning up for UCLA

feb 16 2017 | clay fowler |o.c. register | ARTICLE LINK

LOS ANGELES – Whether to drop off a meal or straighten up the place, Thomas Welsh’s mother periodically stops by the Westwood apartment her son shares with two other UCLA basketball players.
She can always tell when Isaac Hamilton has been there first.
The Bruins’ senior guard is so tidy his coach speculates that he irons his T-shirts and refolds hotel room towels.
During a recent Pac-12 trip, his roommate emerged from the shower upset with Hamilton for allowing housekeeping in the room.
“Isaac had cleaned the room himself,” his mother, Karen Hamilton, said. “The beds were made so well, they thought the maid had done it. He loves to clean. It’s almost like he’s OCD.”
It’s no surprise that Hamilton, 22, is the oldest player on UCLA’s roster. The thing that most defines him as the Bruins’ resident old-timer is his game.
The 6-foot-5 guard’s arsenal of floaters, fade-aways, scoop shots and teardrops is something a senior citizen can appreciate more than a college senior.
Teammates poke fun at some of his moves, but they don’t argue with the results that made him a McDonald’s All-American and the top returning scorer in the Pac-12 Conference this season.
Hamilton’s “old-man game” existed long before he was a five-star recruit at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, but he embraces the label more for his interests off the court.
“I like doing old-man things,” Hamilton said. “I like to read. I take cleaning seriously. It all correlates to each other on and off the court. I embrace it. It brings me peace.”
Hamilton is a Renaissance man, indeed.
When he’s not reading, cleaning or playing basketball, he loves to cook. He makes cannoli and is trying to perfect his enchilada recipe. Sometimes he’ll drive home to Leimert Park to use his mother’s blender for homemade salsa.
The Hamiltons have since added on to their home, but it was 1,100 square feet when it housed all six of their children. That space is where Isaac’s passion for cleanliness, among other things, was born.
“When you’re living in such tight quarters, I made sure they kept everything in its place,” said Greg Hamilton, Isaac’s father. “The boys cut the grass, cleaned the house and washed the dishes. They didn’t have a lot, but what they did have, they took care of it.”
Hamilton learned humility inside those walls and basketball outside in the back yard. Of his four brothers, three played college basketball.
Oldest brother Gary Hamilton played at Miami and his 10-year career in a Japanese league is ongoing. Jordan Hamilton, a first-round draft pick in 2011 who spent four seasons in the NBA, is playing in South America.
Isaac’s younger brother, Daniel Hamilton, was the Oklahoma City Thunder’s second-round pick out of Connecticut last year.
Isaac, who is also hoping for a professional basketball career, is the quiet one. But there is no mistaking where he acquired the relentless competitive drive that made him a decorated high school recruit and an accomplished college player.
“There were bloody noses and fights that broke out when they’d play in the backyard,” Greg Hamilton said.
“They knew they weren’t coming back in the house if they were crying,” Karen Hamilton added. “They learned to bite their T-shirt so the tears would fall inside. That’s where Isaac got his toughness, but to this day if somebody slips, he’ll help them up and take them to lunch.”
Hamilton is an ideal combination of passive and aggressive on a team with plenty of scoring options. His 14.3 points per game make him one of six Bruins averaging double figures for the highest-scoring team in the country.
Despite playing just three years at UCLA – Hamilton sat out his freshman season after a messy transfer before playing a single game at UTEP due to his late grandmother’s health problems – he is 35th on the program’s career scoring list. If he meets his average and the Bruins play at least two games in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, he will finish in the top 25. A fourth season likely would have landed him in the top 10.
Hamilton found his way into the record book when he tied a school mark with nine 3-pointers made in a single game this season, but a prime example of his willingness to defer to others when necessary is his single-digit field-goal attempts in three of UCLA’s last four games.
Hamilton suffered through a well-publicized three-week slump this season during which he made just four of 33 from 3-point range, but never mentioned the pulled muscle in his back that required a visit to a doctor.
“I never got frustrated,” Hamilton said. “Basketball is simple. Shoot when you’re open. I just try to do the same thing no matter if I’m in a slump or not. It’s like everyday when I wake up, I clean my room, I make my bed, I brush my teeth. If I don’t do those same things, I just feel off for the rest of the day.”
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