UConn’s upset victory over Michigan State at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last Nov. 9 has become a gift that keeps on giving. It turns out the Huskies, on national TV in Kevin Ollie’s first game as head coach, left an impression that night on Daniel Hamilton, the top-30 recruit who committed to UConn this past weekend.
“It looked like they were a brotherhood,” Hamilton said, by phone from Los Angeles on Monday night. “That’s where I started to think I could see myself playing for UConn. Guys were unselfish, and the big thing was, it just looked like they were having fun.”
Hamilton, who just averaged 22 points per game with his AAU team, ICP Elite, during a tournament in Dallas this weekend, announced his decision after a victory on Friday night. He had visited UConn a week earlier, May 3-5, where he played pickup with DeAndre Daniels, a friend from LA, and Ryan Boatright, and he spent some time in their dorm playing video games.
“They treated me like I was family,” he said.
Hamilton said he had the same impression when he visited coach Kevin Ollie’s home.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Hamilton said. “Coach Ollie seems very humble. He’s a people person, everybody seems to like being around him. I’ve never heard anyone talk bad about him. … That’s the kind of coach I wanted to play for, someone I can talk to any time, about anything.”
Daniel Hamilton’s familiarity with UConn actually goes way back. When he was in seventh grade, he came to UConn with his oldest brother, Jordan, now with the Denver Nuggets, who was recruited by UConn at the time. Ollie, as an assistant coach, began recruiting another of his brothers, Isaac, as well as Daniel, three years ago when they began their high school careers at Crenshaw High in LA, which is Ollie’s alma mater.
“Coach Ollie is still big around Crenshaw,” he said, “a lot of people know him there and look up to him.”
When Isaac chose Texas El-Paso, a lot of coaches backed away from Daniel. But Ollie stayed in touch. Daniel eventually transferred to St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif. He considered joining Isaac at UTEP, and also considered staying close to home at Southern Cal, and had been in touch with Colorado. But it seems UConn was his first choice all along.
“Coach Ollie never stopped,” Daniel said, “he kept believing he could get me. .. That meant a lot. Really, when I came to visit UConn I was already set. … My brother had to make a decision that was best for him, and I had to make a decision I felt was best for me.”
Hamilton, 6-foot-7, is a swing man, though he still sees himself as a guard. He is the kind of player that fits UConn’s fast-pace design; Ollie is looking for ball-handlers at every position.
“I’m very versatile,” Hamilton said, “I can do a lot of things on the court.”
Hamilton will continue playing in AAU this spring and summer; he will play next in a tournament in Minnesota. He has another year at St. John’s Bosco, and will begin summer classes at UConn in July 2014 – by which time the new training facility will be open for business.
Rodney Purvis, who transferred to UConn from NC State last month, arrived in Storrs Monday to begin “May-mester” classes. He has a full slate of meetings, a physical exam and classes and will probably begin some individual workouts on Wednesday.