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Jordan Hamilton has never taken his experiences for granted and looks to cement his legacy in Japan

By Tom Ballato

Jordan Hamilton grew up a two-sport athlete in Compton, California. He was good at baseball but made the transition to basketball around nine or ten years old. With the help of his father and older brother Gary, Hamilton excelled at basketball.

Hamilton climbed the ranks and became a 5-star recruit at Dominguez High School, where he spent two years. As a junior, Hamilton averaged 27.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and led Dominguez to a 32-3 record.

The 6-foot-7 guard/forward committed to the University of Texas in 2009. When asked about what other schools he considered, Hamilton responded, “I considered UConn and the possibility of playing overseas early like Brandon Jennings did, before entering the NBA Draft.” 

Texas was a culture shock for Hamilton, who grew up in Los Angeles, going into a country college town. He was homesick a lot but had family there when he needed them. As a freshman, he came off the bench, something he didn’t expect as a 5-star recruit and number one small forward in the country out of high school. But things changed for him as a sophomore with three players graduating and Avery Bradley entering the NBA Draft. Hamilton was a starter on a very young team with many ups and downs, but they fought their way to #1 in the country at one point of the season. 

He averaged 18.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in his sophomore year at Texas. His coach Rick Barnes prepared him mentally and emotionally, which helped Hamilton take his game to another level. He declared for the NBA Draft, worked out for about nine teams, and interviewed about 12 teams in Chicago. 

The Dallas Mavericks drafted Hamilton with the 26th pick in 2011 but traded him on draft night to the Denver Nuggets. “Masai Ujiri and George Karl thought I was a perfect fit for the style of play Denver played,” Hamilton said. 

Jordan Hamilton during his tenure with the Denver Nuggets.

He spent his first three seasons in Denver with an assignment to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League mixed into his tenure with the team. Hamilton’s role was a catch and shoot type of player off the bench. The Nuggets traded him in the middle of his third season to the Houston Rockets. In a year where he saw a significant jump in his minutes, Houston didn’t re-sign him at the end of the season. 

The 2014-2015 season began with Hamilton in training camp to the Toronto Raptors. After a strong preseason where he averaged 9.5 points per game, Toronto waived him, and Utah picked him up. He never suited up for Utah, who waived him shortly after signing him. 

Hamilton never gave up despite the shortcomings early that season. He played lights out for the Reno Bighorns in the D-League averaging 18.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. In February, Hamilton signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, and he earned a second 10-day contract before the Clippers signed him for the rest of the season. 

Los Angeles didn’t re-sign Hamilton in the offseason, and he headed overseas to play in Russia. Before parting ways with his club in Russia, Hamilton appeared in six EuroCup games, but his stay in Russia wasn’t enjoyable. After many injuries, the New Orleans Pelicans used their hardship waiver on Hamilton after returning to the United States to play in the D-League. In 11 games, Hamilton averaged 27.6 minutes, 11.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. New Orleans signed him for the rest of the season, but he found himself a free agent in the off-season once again. 

“I never took any opportunity for granted, and I was always enjoying myself out there. I think I did a really good job in my 11 game stint with NOLA (New Orleans), and I definitely thought I’d get another look after that season, but it’s been overseas since that, and that’s just how the dice rolled for me.” – Jordan Hamilton when speaking about his NBA career. 

Hamilton has played overseas since 2016, making stops in Venezuela, Turkey, Isreal, Italy, and Japan. The experience in Venezuela and Italy was something that he enjoyed, especially shopping in Italy. Up until this point, Israel has been Hamilton’s favorite place he’s played due to Israel’s history being the holy land, and there are so many things to do off the court. He’s had two stints in Isreal and enjoyed the fans. 

Now at 30 years old, Hamilton is playing in Japan’s Japanese B.League for the Shiga Lakestars. He had his mind set on playing in Japan this season because his older brother had played in Japan, and the league is getting better each year. 

Hamilton is the go-to guy for the Lakestars and looks comfortable playing his game, something we haven’t seen on full display since Texas. The Lakestars have an excellent coach in Shawn Dennis, and Hamilton’s teammates embraced his play style. 

He leads his team in scoring and assists, but his goal for this season is to be a playoff team, something the Lakestars never accomplished as a team in B-1 League.

When asked about what’s next, Hamilton said, “I will be a free agent, but I want to play in Japan for the rest of my career, honestly!”

His brother has a house in the city where he enjoys the company of his family and everything that Japan has to offer. 

Hamilton has a lot left in the tank, and he’s not taking his foot off the gas anytime soon.

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