2016 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day: Former prized recruit Isaac Hamilton helping new prized recruits transition to UCLA
SAN FRANCISCO – The Bruins might be coming off a losing season, but expectations are sky-high in Westwood. Not just because UCLA is one of the gold standards of college hoops, but because the Bruins have a top-5 recruiting class coming into town. In large thanks to five-star freshmen Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, the Bruins were picked to finish third in a deep Pac-12 Conference that is coming off a season that yielded seven bids to the NCAA Tournament.
But it isn’t always roses for incoming freshmen; not everyone is able to “live up to the hype” starting with his first college game.
Luckily for Ball, Leaf and Anigbogu, they have Isaac Hamilton to look up to. Ranked the No. 14 prospect in the nation by Rivals while in high school, he’s been through the recruiting ringer. Originally signing a letter of intent with UTEP, Hamilton changed his mind and decided on UCLA, wanting to be close to his ailing grandmother. That decision didn’t come without a cost, as Hamilton lost a year of eligibility.
Now a senior, Hamilton has made the most of his on-court opportunities the last two seasons, finishing last season as the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points per game after averaging more than 10 points, three rebounds and three assists the first year he was able to play in 2014-15. His experiences make him a great candidate to be able to lead this new crop of promising freshmen through some of the challenges they might face.
“Coming in is always a big transition. I just told these guys to play their game,” Hamilton said at Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “[Our offense] is a bunch of read and reacts. These guys have a bunch of high IQs… What I told these guys is just to play like you did in high school.”
According to Alford, so far, so good. He has been impressed with how Hamilton, alongside his own son Bryce Alford, have been able to welcome the new guys into the fold.
“They’ve done a really good job creating that culture in house. They’re really good men,” Alford said of Hamilton and Bryce. “When you’ve got the older ones and that younger guys, sometimes the younger guys are walking on eggshells. Bryce and Isaac have done a really nice job of accepting these guys.”
We’ll get a first look at the new freshmen for real on Nov. 11, when the Bruins open the 2016-17 campaign against Pacific.