Friday, February 29, 2008

Katie Hamilton: A Super Senior

The following feature was written by Davidson Assistant SID Lauren Biggers. The original story can be found here.

Senior Katie Hamilton’s college career hasn’t played out quite as she expected.

A late signee with the Wildcats, Hamilton was uncertain she even wanted to play basketball coming out of high school. At Davidson, though, she found the perfect mix of academics and athletics for which she had searched, which translated to immediate success on the court. Her first season, she led the team in scoring (11.9 ppg), 3-pointers made (45) and steals (35) and became the first Davidson player to earn Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

After a sophomore campaign where she was again an All-SoCon selection after leading the team in scoring and ranking second in the league with an average of 15.8 points per game, Hamilton disappointingly missed all of the 2005-06 season after tearing her ACL in the offseason.

The following fall, her rollercoaster ride continued, and she returned to the starting lineup to help the Wildcats to the most successful campaign in school history. The 2006-07 team won a school-record 23 games and earned the program’s first postseason berth, a trip to the Women’s NIT, and individually, the two-time All-SoCon guard became just the 10th 1,000-point scorer in program history.

With enough credits in hand to graduate, Hamilton decided to play out her final year of eligibility for the Wildcats and get a dual-major. A five-year player is a pretty common thing on athletic rosters across the country, but more rare at Davidson, where there are no graduate programs to make such a stay-over more logical. Hamilton, though, didn’t think she was quite done with basketball.

“In terms of what made me want to come back, I kind of thought about it like, would I regret not coming back? Is there anything that I was rushing off to that won’t be there in another year?” she said. “And the more I thought through it, the more I thought if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll always wonder.”

Entering the 2007-08 season, Hamilton ranked sixth on the Davidson all-time scoring list with 1,134 points, while ranking in the top-10 in 11 other categories, and earned Preseason All-SoCon honors.

But the high hopes for her final season on the hardwood were quickly dashed. She was sidelined for most of the fall with a recurring knee injury that forced her to miss 14 games and still limits her playing time. It’s not exactly the finale for which she had hoped, to be sure, but don’t expect Hamilton to complain. It’s just not in her nature.

Always a major player in the team dynamics off the court, Hamilton rejoined the Wildcats on the hardwood in the SoCon matchup at the College of Charleston Jan. 2. She didn’t score, attempted just one shot and grabbed a rebound in seven minutes in the Wildcats’ 66-51 win. It was not a dynamic debut, but she was back to playing the game she loves.

“It’s an opportunity to be a part of this team for another year, which has been the most amazing part of my college experience in general,” Hamilton said. “The thought of getting to spend time with my teammates and getting to play basketball for another year. Why would I turn that down?”

Unsure of her on-court role this season, Hamilton decided to focus her energy on her off-court leadership.

“I have been really lucky in the past to have older teammates who were strong leaders on the team,” she said. “Physically, I was unsure about what my role on the team would be, so I think I had a goal of wanting to just be a consistent leader through encouraging my teammates.”

One of the best and most proven scorers in the conference, Hamilton at half speed is better than plenty at full speed, and any contribution she may offer is valuable to the Wildcats this year. Proving she can still add something, Hamilton scored 25 points in 24 minutes of action over the Wildcats’ three-game winning streak versus Appalachian State, at Greensboro and at Elon.

“I was hopeful that I’d be able to fill a more consistent and tangible role on the court, so I was hesitant to set too many athletic goals,” Hamilton said. “At same time, I was kind of like, ‘Well, we’ll see what comes, and if I do get the opportunity, I just want to play hard and enjoy it.’”

As a “super senior,” Hamilton has had the rare opportunity to play with a lot of players on a lot of different teams over her five-year career at Davidson. And with last year’s graduation of the three players she came in with – Brynn Kelly, Tia Washington and Jessica Mitchell – there were several question marks on this Wildcat squad entering this season, in addition to those surrounding her own playing time.

“This year early on, we were filling new roles,” Hamilton said. “We had people getting a lot more playing time than they had had before, and so it was an adjustment. But seeing the growth and seeing people come into their own has really allowed us to peak more towards the end.”

She points to the development of sophomore point guard Alex Thompson and junior forward Mercedes Robinson as the two most obvious examples.

“Alex is a great example,” Hamilton said. “Last year, she didn’t get a lot of playing time, but really wanted to learn. She comes back ready to fill the starting point guard role, this huge responsibility. And then Mercedes has completely dominated this season, which has been awesome. It’s been fun to see that development.”

It was also fun to be a part of the record-setting 2006-07 team along with Kelly, Washington and Mitchell, Hamilton acknowledges, but cites no particular team as more special than another.

“Every year is unique because every year has a different feel with different players and different people contributing in different ways,” she said. “Honestly, all of my years are pretty vivid.”

When the curtain does close on Hamilton’s career, the religion and sociology double-major intends to take some time off in Decatur, Ga., before heading back to graduate school to pursue a master’s in counseling.

“I’m really thankful,” Hamilton said. “I feel like I’ve gotten the opportunity to play the game I love and a lot of it. I think no one anticipates injuries or pictures those as a part of their career, but they happen. But those aren’t the defining aspects of my time here.”

No, those can be found in the record books.

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