Los Angeles Lakers: Dorsey High School

"The L.A. in my Game," with Jordan Hamilton

September, 3, 2011
By The Kamenetzky Brothers
As part of a continuing series, NBA players share how growing up in L.A. shaped their games.

For Jordan Hamilton, an NBA lockout stalling his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets is a microcosm of his entire basketball career: A series of starts and stops. Academically ineligible as a Dorsey High school freshman, the Crenshaw district product repeated that grade academically the following year, but was considered a sophomore player on the court. Thus, a season lost in the ether. After transferring to Dominguez his junior year, he led the squad to the state finals, where they were upset by McClymonds. Unfortunately, redemption wasn't in the cards. Despite three appeals, Hamilton's eligibility was ruled expired as a senior. Disappointed but undeterred, Hamilton made the best of the situation by maintaining his high work ethic. That determination led to two seasons at Texas, followed by 26th overall selection by the Denver Nuggets in this year's draft.

Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images
Hamilton's road to the NBA wasn't as smooth as his game.

Kamenetzky brothers: When you first began playing, which were your regular playgrounds and parks?

Jordan Hamilton: We played some basketball at Ladera Park. Baldwin Hills park. I'd go there every once in a while and play. Rancho Cienega [mainly]. A lot of guys came out of there and played as kids. Marcus Williams played there as kids. I think Arron [Afflalo] played there. A lot of pros. I liked the atmosphere. It was like a mini-Rucker indoors, so a lot of people would come out and watch us play.

I never really played my own age. I'd always play up. They didn't know I was only nine or 10 years old. I was around 5'10", pretty tall and pretty big, so they didn't really see me as a nine year-old.

I think that's when [respect] first got started for me, just going around there and building a reputation around L.A. Then I took it to the national scene. Growing up as a kid playing AAU from about 10, 11, 12, that's when I started getting nationally known. But it started [at Rancho]. Just built that confidence to go out and play against guys across the country and get better.

K Bros: What goes into building that reputation?

JH: People talking. It starts off as a buzz, then people come out and see you play. If you perform well and keep it going, I think that's how you build your reputation. And just being known for something. Some guys block shots. Some guys rebound well. But for me, it was scoring. A lot of people see me as a scorer, so if they come out, they expect to see me score the basketball.

K Bros: Were there any local legends you patterned your game after?

JH: Marcus Williams. I really look up to him in a lot of ways. Growing up, he was one of the best players in our area. Just seeing him how much people respected him. He's a really good passer. He can shoot. Most [guards] are known for passing, but he can shoot it. He can get to the basket. He know how to create fouls. He's not one of the quickest or fastest guys but he definitely can get the job done.

K Bros: Your parents were very involved in the community, trying to make it as strong an environment as possible. What effect did that have on you with avoiding negative influences?

JH: I have four brothers and a sister and we're all on the right track, as far as our lives go. Growing up in the Crenshaw area, it was kind of rough. We just hung out with each other. Those are really my close friends. I'd include Marcus and a couple of others. Those are the main focuses. Having us stay tight, having us in a support system, and basketball is what we all chose.

K Bros: Did you have to make a conscious decision of acknowledging those surroundings and trying to distance yourself?

JH: My dad, he works with County Probation with juveniles. He'd take us to the place to see the kids and that was kind of scary for us. That being said, we never wanted to go down that route. We just kept straight heads and did what we had to do to be a positive influence in the community.

K Bros: Your older brother played for the University of Miami and professionally overseas. What did you learn from him?

JH: He was more of a post player, but he's been through it with other guys and saw other wings train. He put me through some drills and then later that day, we would play some pickup basketball every summer. I would play against pros all the time. I think that's also a confidence booster. It was like, "Okay, if I can get my shot off against Ron Artest or Trevor Ariza, I can definitely get my shot off on a wing in college."

K Bros: When did you really focus on taking basketball to the next level?

JH: Probably when I was 12. When I was 11, we went to Nationals in Florida with an AAU team and I had a really good showing. And then when I was 12, that's when I started playing against guys that were older than me. Right after that, I [thought] maybe I can possibly be in the NBA one day.

K Bros: You started out at Dorsey, but you were academically ineligible as a freshman. Was it frustrating or scary to have your high school quickly stall?

JH: Yeah, it was tough. I started high school at 13 years old, failed some classes, so I was academically ineligible and then I tried to fight to get that year back. Technically, I was [still] in ninth grade, but it was my sophomore year on the court and ninth grade in the class room. I played two years at Dorsey, then transferred to Dominguez, which was my junior year, but technically, on the court I was a senior. My fifth year, I couldn't play at all. Not playing kind of hurt me, but I knew I was gonna be okay. My grades were okay, since the NCAA granted me a fifth year. I was gonna be able to go to college and play.

K Bros: Your family takes grades seriously. Was it harder being unable to play or telling them about those grades?

JH: Harder to go home. (Laughs)

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22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3