Senior guard Austin Hamilton has been a member of the Elon University men’s basketball team for quite some time, so a memorable night was long overdue.
The night came Jan. 24, when the Phoenix played the University of Delaware. Hamilton scored a career-high 31 points, with an astonishing six 3-pointers in a 92-84 win.
“I love Austin Hamilton,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “Austin Hamilton is an Elon man. He’s tough, resilient, and he’s had some adversity in his career here with injuries. He has overcome it. It’s really deserved for Austin to have a night like this.”
Hamilton’s first year in a Phoenix uniform came with promise. After arriving at Elon following his participation in the “Capital Classic”, an all-star game in Maryland, Hamilton entered the Phoenix starting lineup. As a freshman, he made 19 starts, while appearing in 25 games, and was named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman team after averaging 9.2 points per game and shooting .714 from the line. Some highlights of the season included scoring 20 points against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in late January, 2012 and making a game winning 3-pointer against the Naval Academy in early December, 2011. He also registered double-figure point totals 13 times.
The rising star entered his sophomore season with much anticipation after his freshman campaign. What started out as a season of promise ended pre-maturely when Hamilton suffered a season-ending knee injury in a game against Western Carolina University.
Hamilton came back to action for his junior year, but never re captured the play that earned him the All-Freshman honors, averaging only 6.2 points per game, the lowest of his career. Hamilton was also overshadowed by four different 1,000-point scorers on the Elon roster.
As a veteran, Hamilton has taken on a leadership role on the youthful roster. He is currently second on the team with 50 assists and has taken a step back from his high-scoring games.
Until the Delaware game, Hamilton was averaging 5.6 points per game. But after three games against Delaware, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Northeastern University, that number jumped to 7.0.
Hamilton’s heroics against Delaware seemed to come out of nowhere, but his timing was perfect. With the Phoenix riding a four-game losing streak, the team was in need of the offensive spark it had been lacking for weeks.
The senior answered the call with a 31-point showing, the highest in Alumni Gym since 2012 and the second-highest offensive output by an Elon player this season. Most of Hamilton’s 3-pointers came during a stretch in the second half where Elon started to pull away. When Delaware opened up the second half on a 7-0 run, it was Hamilton who converted a lay-up to put a halt to the comeback. Elon would not lose the lead again.
“I have been putting in some work after practice and before practice,” Hamilton said after the game. “It’s humbling to see that it’s paid off.”
The game came as no surprise to his teammates, though. Sophomore forward Christian Hairston said the team knew Hamilton still had it.
“Austin did what I knew Austin could do,” Hairston said. “Austin is one of the leaders on our team. He does a great job of trying to get everyone on the team involved.”
He added, “I think Austin is a perfect example of the Elon basketball player. He comes in and works hard every day. We look to Austin as our leader, we look up to him.”
Hamilton chuckled at Hairston’s post-game comment, calling it “cute”.
Hamilton has proven an asset on offense that the Phoenix has sought this season. With only two months remaining in the season, Austin Hamilton has the chance to make his final season in maroon and gold something special.
“Every basketball player wants to have big nights in front of a good crowd,” Hamilton said. “I was just fortunate to have a great supporting staff to keep encouraging me and keep my spirits high. Without them, I don’t think this night would have happened.”