Strengths: Isaac Hamilton’s malleable nature made him an ideal teammate, an ideal representative for why this UCLA team’s unselfishness made it so good, but he didn’t have a problem calling his own number when needed.
Hamilton’s average dipped nearly three points from his junior year to 14.1 points per game as a senior, but he finished third in assists behind only point guards Lonzo Ball and Aaron Holiday on the team that averaged the most assists since UNLV set the Division-I record 26 years ago. The senior was an accomplished scorer who likely would have climbed into the top 10 on the school’s career scoring list had he played four years at UCLA.
Weaknesses: Hamilton wasn’t the target Bryce Alford was on the defensive end, but he was the Bruins’ second-weakest link on that end of the floor. His athleticism translated to him being a crafty scorer and a great shooter, but lateral movement wasn’t Hamilton’s forte. Consistent struggles to stay in front of his man forced UCLA’s back line to play help defense more often than the Bruins could handle, especially with two freshman in the front court who needed time to learn defensive rotations.
Best moment: Hamilton broke out of a slump with a 33-point game on Jan. 19 in a win over Arizona State, tying a school record in the process. He made nine 3-pointers, equaling a mark set by Jason Kapono and Bryce Alford but, true to form, he didn’t force up any 3s in the last few minutes of the 22-point victory in an effort to try and break the record. Hamilton lacerated his tongue and wasn’t available after the game, but his teammates said they didn’t think he was even aware of the record.
Worst moment: UCLA opened conference play with a last-second loss at Oregon that haunted the Bruins the rest of a regular season that finished with the No. 8 team in the country in third place in the Pac-12. Hamilton’s 2-point effort was poorly timed considering just one basket could have been the difference in the 89-87 loss on Dillon Brooks’ 3-pointer at the buzzer. Hamilton was 1 for 6 from the field with three turnovers in a game that began the worst shooting slump of his career. He was UCLA’s leading scorer through the season’s first 10 games, but after going 2 for 24 over a three-game stretch beginning with the loss at Oregon, Hamilton’s confidence was never quite the same again.
Summary: Hamilton began his career by sacrificing a year of eligibility simply to transfer to UCLA from UTEP, where he never played a game. He ended his career sacrificing for the good of a team with more talented individuals around him. The top returning scorer in the Pac-12 this season finished fourth in that category on his own team, but was a large reason UCLA was the highest-scoring team in the country. Hamilton wasn’t the complete player UCLA needed to ascend to the Final Four, but he should be admired for willingness to defer to two freshman and never question his role.
Future outlook: Hamilton made it clear this season he intends to pursue a career in professional basketball. His younger brother Daniel was Oklahoma City’s second-round draft pick last year and older brother Jordan was a first-round pick that has played parts of five seasons in the NBA. Hamilton may have to go the route of older brother Gary, who has played ten years overseas, given his lack of elite athleticism.