A Basketball Bond between Father and Son

Feb. 26, 2016

Take a closer look at the left arm of Alex Hamilton and you will see a basketball with a crown and a cross etched into his skin.

Behind that is another tattoo, a six-letter name running down his triceps in old English font, George -- as in his father, George Hamilton, Jr.

For George Alexander Hamilton III (his birth name), there was a connection, a bond, through basketball long before he got the permanent markings on his body. It goes all the way back to the day he was born when his father put the small, inflated ball into his infant hands.

“I always had a basketball goal around the house,” Alex recalled. “I remember the times when I use to go out and play with my older sister. She used to beat up on me when I was little. Then going to my aunt’s house, my cousins use to beat up on me. I think that helped with the development of my game. Just having them beat up on me and me having to adjust to different situations.”

Alex took his on-the-court bashings while growing up in Chipley, Florida, a small historic town in the panhandle.

If ever you wanted to find Alex, your best bet was not at the lively sandy beaches along the shore. No, it would be in the serenity of a basketball gym with his dad.

“We use to go to the gym in the summer when the season was over,” Alex said. “He had a key to the gym so we would go there and play one-on-one full court, hours upon hours.

“During the season, we would get in the gym before his practice. We would go in there and then I would watch them practice. Sometimes I was involved in their practice, going against the girls. I used to ride the buses to the games. He wanted me to be a part of it.”

They called him ‘Little Hamilton’ and of course he got picked on and beat up at the back of the bus, but it was not long after that when Alex was old enough to stand his ground and compete with the older kids.

 

 

When he got to middle school, he ended up being the only sixth grader to make the team. After that, he moved to Panama City with his dad and played at Bay High School as a freshman and sophomore. But then he moved back to Chipley to go out as a Tiger.

“My mom was always at the games,” Alex said of Brenda whose name he has inked down his right triceps. “My dad never sat where I could see him. I remember at Bay High School, he would sit at the top of the bleachers. He would try to move around, but I could always locate him. Every time I did something, I could hear him. I knew his voice out of everybody, and I would find him.”

After enduring all of the scrapes and bruises from always being the youngest and smallest, Alex was now a junior in high school enjoying life – playing hoops, Friday nights at the football game, bonfires, house parties with friends.

He was living in a self-described movie. That was until one day he was sitting in anatomy, doing a group project in the back of the classroom, when he received the biggest blow of all in the form of a text message.

“One of the players at Bay High texted me and asked if I had heard what happened to my dad,” Alex said. “He had a heart attack. It was a big shock. I asked the teacher if I could call my mom to come get me. We drove straight to Panama.

“I remember getting there, he was responsive. We had a conversation, did out little hand shake that we got. We talked about him making it through and how everything was going to be alright. I stayed for a couple of hours and then I went back home.”

Everything was not going to be alright though. On Dec. 4, 2010, George Alexander Hamilton Jr. went home to be with his Lord at the age of 45.

“The last thing he told me was go play basketball and have fun,” Alex remembered. “We drove back to Panama, we all met up at the hospital and that is when I broke down. I kept thinking about the game before that was at Bay High, the last one he was alive for. If it was not for basketball, me and him having a basketball relationship, I don’t think I would have gotten through it.”

He instantly thought of all the life lessons his father passed along through basketball like the time he missed a layup in a city league game and was forced to make 100 layups with each hand to toughen him up.

Or the time they were alone in the gym, playing one-on-one and it was game point. Alex stole the ball and his dad called a foul. Alex took the ball and slung it with all his might. His dad immediately grabbed him and said to never disrespect the game like that.

That moment is one of the reasons why Alex does not show much emotion. You never see him get enraged or cheery.

“Him keeping me in the church, it was something that made it easier on me, just knowing that he served God and I knew where he was going. He would be at peace, and I was at peace with it.”

Also helping Alex deal was a life-long friend of his fathers who he considers family, a man known simply as Uncle Marlon.

“I’ve known Alex’s dad since sixth grade when we lived in Maryland,” Marlon said. “We just became good friends because we both loved basketball. We would go to the Bullets games and go see Georgetown. We played pick-up all the time together.

“When I first met Alex, he was eight years old. We worked a camp at UGA, and he brought Alex up. They stayed with me and drove to Athens. When George died, I called and told him, ‘You don’t have your dad and I can never replace him, but anything you ever need I have your back.’ I told him that after the funeral too. I said, ‘I got you.’”

There was admittedly a time after his passing that Alex did not get in the gym and play the game the right way, the way his father taught him. But basketball soon became a release from everything.

“My dad use to always tell me the world doesn’t owe you anything,” Alex said. “I always kept that with me. Nothing is given. When I started playing AAU, I never started having looks until late. I always kept that on my shoulder. I felt like they should have given it to me, but I remember my dad telling me that and that I need to go get it.”

With his newfound desire and with help from his uncle Marlon, the scholarship offers started pouring in.

Schools like Auburn and Memphis. Then there were dream schools Florida State and Georgia coming on strong late.

But there was also Louisiana Tech who came into the picture.

“I really wanted to get away from home because I knew if I was close, I would always want to go home, especially with my father gone,” Alex said. “Me being at Auburn two-and-a-half hours from home, then Tallahassee just an hour, I would have been home every night.

“It was also about who wanted me more. I did not want to go somewhere where it was just one guy coming to recruit me. [Louisiana Tech] was the only coaching staff that all came to the school. They came multiple times. I really felt like they wanted me. I made the right decision.”

After Alex was named the 2012 Florida 1A Player of the Year after leading Chipley to its first-ever state basketball championship, he was ready to make some noise and make a name for himself as a Bulldog. He did that and then some.

He was unfazed as a freshman, even when making his first career start at Utah State in front of 8,530 screaming fans wanting him to miss two crucial free throws but he sank both without even grazing the rim. Or when he got the start in the first round NIT game in his backyard at Florida State, scoring 16 points in the upset win over the Seminoles.

He was named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Newcomer team while helping LA Tech to a conference regular season title.

Jump to his sophomore year with the University and program now a member of Conference USA and Alex burst onto the scene, including dropping 31 points in an overtime win at Oklahoma. He was the only Bulldog to start all 37 games and ended up leading the team in scoring and to another league title. He earned all-conference honors.

He also got the opportunity to play another dream school of his in Georgia – who ended up taking another player over Alex out of high school – in the second round of the NIT. All he did was score a game-high 20 points and record three steals.

His junior year saw a three-peat of a regular season league title with Alex averaging 15 points per game and being named second team All-Conference USA.

This year would be different though. After playing somewhat in the shadow of the big three – Raheem Appleby, Speedy Smith and Michale Kyser – Alex would become the leader. He would be the one looked upon to carry the team night in and night out.

Something else would be different. He would be doing all of this under a new head coach, Eric Konkol, who had been watching and keeping up with Alex long before he took the job at Tech.

“The first time I ever saw Alex was when he played for the AAU Alabama Challenge, and I remember it was in Aiken, South Carolina at the Peach State Tournament,” Konkol said. “I just got to the University of Miami, and I remember being in the back gym. We happened to be recruiting other positions, but I remember thinking he was a good player. I followed his career at Louisiana Tech and saw the success he had.

“In the first few days of being here, I talked to his mom Brenda and his uncle Marlon, just getting to know everybody in his family so we could all be on the same page in trying to help Alex become the very best he can be.”

Alex has since become the all-time winningest Bulldog in program history, an accomplishment wrapped around one of the greatest individual seasons ever at LA Tech.

He is currently the only player in the entire country to be averaging at least 18.0 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, something that has never even been done by a player in Conference USA since the league’s inception in 1995.

He will also go down as the only Bulldog to ever rank in the top five in career points, assists and steals. His name is also included in a handful of free throw records as well, a place Alex visits often because he continues to take a beating on the court, sacrificing his body for the betterment of the team.

“I just have to find a way to win,” Alex said. “Just being beaten up on all my life has played a huge part in it. I use to get beaten up so badly I’d cry, run in the house and hide. Now that I am older, when we have family reunions or I’ll go home for Christmas, we will play now and I try to destroy them. I just like winning. It was a different feeling going from getting beat up on to winning. I never want to go back to that.”

Alex laughed when saying the last time he played at 100 percent was when he was a sophomore, in high school.

“We ask a lot out of him,” Konkol said. “I will always remember he is a competitive guy. Anything with competition in it, and that is a practice game or anything where there is a score, he shows a lot of toughness. We have had a lot of games where he has played almost every minute. He battles. He is going to go down as one of the better players to have come out of Louisiana Tech. To be able to be a part of his senior year has been a joy for me.”

Maturity wise, he has exceeded a lot of expectations, even his uncles.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” Marlon said. “I ride Alex really hard. I know what he has in him, and I know where he came from so I expect a lot. I am proud he has done so well, with basketball and his character.”

Look at Alex and watch his mannerisms and the way he walks and you see his father. He is a spitting image of George.

On senior night, his family will be there to see him play his final game in the Thomas Assembly Center. And according to Alex, his father will also be watching.

“I always feel like he is there,” Alex said. “Even at the away games, everywhere we go. I feel like he is there in spirit. and I know he is looking down on me smiling. Every game I play is for him because he taught me the game.”

When that round ball gets tipped off for the final time, Alex will do what he always does and that is do a kiss to the sky.

He will also touch his left arm where there is a new tattoo; this one of an angel with his dad’s jersey number on it.

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