Originally Published: Jan 30, 2010 6:56 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Reporter
TULSA, Oklahoma -- During key timeouts, when Michael Parish needs a big play from his team, he knows exactly which Eagle to draw up the play for.
Without a doubt, the ball is going to Steven Hamilton.
“Steven’s our go-to guy,” said the Edison boys’ head basketball coach. “He is the guy we look to for an emotional leader, a guy who we look to on the floor in key situations. Whether it be a basket, or an assist, or a rebound. He’s our go-to guy in many ways, not just scoring.”
In just few short years, Hamilton, a junior forward at Edison, has earned his coach’s admiration. He’s earned the respect of his teammates and his opponent’s disdain by starring on the basketball court.
Sitting with me in a quiet gym before an afternoon practice, talking about hoops and life, things seem fine for the lanky, 6-foot-5 sharp-shooter. Just 30 minutes prior to our chat, Hamilton spent time alone on the far end of the floor, launching three pointers and working on his ball-handling. The ball repeated sonnets of the ‘swish, swish, swish’ through the net, creating a harmonious basketball rhythm. Hamilton has built himself into a quality Division I basketball prospect, but his early years were hardly a layup.
Hamilton’s road to success is a bumpy one to say the least. As a toddler, Hamilton nearly lost his life after suffering severe acid burns over his chest, arm and face. An eye-catching scar stretches from his hairline to his chin, a constant reminder of what could have been.
“I can’t even believe it even happened,” said Hamilton. “I pray about it every day.”
He battled back from that, but his journey to hardwood stardom wasn’t over.
His father walked out on him and his family before he turned four. He bounced around from home to home, living with his grandmother in Texarkana, Texas until he was eight, before eventually moving to Tulsa to live with his mother and aunt.
“It’s been good living with them, instead of going back where I came from,” said Hamilton.
Still, Hamilton had an upward climb. He admits that the lack of a male presence in his life didn’t make things easier. Growing up with little-to-no men around to act as a role model set him back.
“I took it kind of hard,” Hamilton said. “I was looking for (my dad) to be there while I was going through all these things, and he just didn’t show.”
Hamilton says he hasn’t heard from his dad in at least six years. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing. He relied solely on the support of his mom and aunt to build him into a young man that succeeded on and off the court.
“I would say it was pretty decent, but it wasn't as good as kids should have it,” said Hamilton. “It was an okay childhood.”
ON THE FLOOR
On a cool night in December, Hamilton and the Eagles hosted Will Rogers. Like most nights, Hamilton served as the main attraction, turning nearly every head in his home gym. In one play, the junior stalked the ball on defense, forcing a swing pass to the other side of the court with his length. After a teammate’s steal, he raced down the floor in a half-dozen or so steps, effortlessly rose off the floor, and finished the break with a thunderous two-handed slam. Edison won 87-43.
Those flash-bulb moments have become weeknight tradition at Edison, but basketball wasn’t even Hamilton’s first love. The 17-year-old grew up in Texas playing football. His mom first introduced him to the hardwood in Oklahoma.
As a freshman, the game didn’t come to him effortlessly. His coach says Hamilton’s shot wasn’t tuned and his footwork wasn’t crisp. Thanks to countless hours in the gym, his skills have improved significantly in the past two seasons.
“My freshman year, I had a hard time working my way through stuff,” admitted Hamilton.
“His game has really improved over time,” said Parish. “He can pretty much play any position for us, from the point guard to the center. He’s probably a defensive specialist more than anything.”
The perfect example of Hamilton’s maturation on the floor came in his first two postseasons. Parish told me about the semifinal round when Hamilton was a freshman. He had a shot at a game-winning jumper that would have sent Edison to the state finals for the first time in nearly 20 years. He missed it and the Eagles’ season ended in heartbreak.
Twelve months later, Hamilton and his team found themselves in a similar situation. This time, from nearly the identical spot on the floor, Hamilton made the clutch bucket at the buzzer to push the Eagles on in the playoffs.
“He’s still not a finished product yet,” said Parish. “There are days we still have to work with him, but he’s deserving of all the honors he’s received, through a lot of hard work.”
Something after big buckets, you’ll hear Hamilton let out a primal howl, accompanied by the occasional chest-bump. According to his coach, the do-it-all player ‘wears his emotions on his sleeve’ and often wears a scowl on his face during games. The ironic part about Hamilton’s on-court showmanship is that he’s the exact opposite off of it.
“Off the floor, he’s energetic, laid back, and fun to be around,” said Parish. “A lot of times his athleticism and abilities overshadow how great of a young man he is.”
Every game night, after he shakes hands with the opposing team’s captains at midcourt, and strips off his warm-up top for the announcing of the starting lineups, he listens. In the stands, above all of the other noises, music and other commotion that come along with pregame rituals, he can hear the one voice he’s searching for.
His mom is in the stands.
“They come to every game,” Hamilton says of his mother and aunt. “Just by listening, I can tell where my mom’s at. She’s a pretty loud person.”
During the winter, the woman that introduced her son to the game, gets to watch him excel at it. She watches as he blows by defenders, swats shots out of bounds, and leads his team to victories. His coach realizes how imperative her structure and assurance has been for Hamilton.
“(She has) provided the stability for him to excel. They are really caring,” Parish said of Hamilton’s mom and aunt. “He has no excuses. He has every reason to be successful because of the strong women in his life and the stability they give to him.”
“It makes me feel good to hear my family (at games) supporting me,” he smiled, “especially my mom.”
Hamilton is receiving interest from a number of college basketball programs, including Oklahoma and Tulsa.