Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hampton's Hamilton a shot-blocking marvel

If the term "shot-blocking point guard" seems like an oxymoron, that's because it usually is. Or at least it was, until Hampton coach David Six crossed his fingers and gave natural two-guard Nicole Hamilton the keys at the start of the 2012-13 season.

Opposing guards are probably still trying to figure out what hit them.

Last season, Hamilton blocked 48 shots, a stunningly high number for a backcourt player who stands just 5-foot-8. But that was merely the warm-up. Through 20 games this season, the Lady Pirates senior is already at 50 blocks.

Now, there are entire teams that don't have 50 blocks. The Virginia Cavaliers, for example, all 12 of them, have combined for 22.

Of course, we all know that the Cavaliers don't have a lot of size. But then, neither does Hamilton. Not your typical shot-blocking size, anyway. Yet only one Division I guard in the country blocks more shots than Hamilton - Florida Gulf Coast's Whitney Knight - and she's 6-3. And of the 21 D-I players at any position who have eclipsed Hamilton's 50 blocks, the shortest is 6-2, a half-foot taller than our girl Nicki.

As shot blockers go, Hamilton is the shortest player among D-I's Top 50, Top 100 or Top 150. Simply put, no one her size is doing anything like this. You know how boxing has its pound-for-pound champion? Well, inch-for-inch, Hamilton is Division I's queen of rejection.

Remember, though, Hamilton only moonlights as a shot blocker. In her day job as Hampton's point guard, she's leading the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in assists, pacing the Lady Pirates in steals and hauling down nearly 6 rebounds a night, all while logging a MEAC-high 36.7 minutes per contest.

Oh, and then there's her scoring. Despite a shooting touch that can come and go, Hamilton averages a healthy 13.4 points per game and needs just six more to reach 1,000 for her career.

On nights when her shot is falling - 27 points at LSU, 24 vs. Kansas State - Hamilton's high-level impact at both ends is in the class of UConn's Breanna Stewart and Central Michigan's Crystal Bradford - arguably the two most gifted all-around performers in the country.

And when her shot is off, Hampton has to settle for having a high-level shot-blocking, ball-hawking, rebounding playmaker running its show.

Somehow, the Lady Pirates get by.

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