Former Boston College forward Jairus Hamilton says he decided to transfer to Maryland because of his relationship with Terps head coach Mark Turgeon, the chance to win and the opportunity to return to an area where he lived for a few years growing up.
The 6-foot-8, 234-pound Hamilton played in 24 games and started 20 for the Eagles in 2019-20, averaging 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds. He was recruited by the Terps when he starred at Cannon School (N.C.), but he opted to attend Boston College to play in the ACC with his brother, Jared, who completed his college career with the Eagles last month.
Hamilton entered his name in the transfer portal after the season, and on April 1 he announced on Twitter that he had picked Maryland. Hamilton was recruited by Turgeon in high school.
“I still have the great memories of being able to play with my brother. That’s something I’m going to hold onto forever,” Hamilton said on Glenn Clark Radio April 2. “But now coming back to the decision when I decided to put my name in the portal, Coach Turgeon was the first one to call me and hit me up and explained from that day that he still wanted me to be a Terp. That really stuck with me. It took me a few days to really think about it, but it definitely turned out to be somewhere I wanted to be.”
Boston College struggled during Hamilton’s two years, going 27-36 overall and 12-26 in the ACC. The Eagles haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2009, when they earned their seventh tournament appearance in nine years. Since then, Boston College has just two winning seasons.
Maryland was well on its way to a fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in six years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the tournament. The Terps went 24-7 overall, and their 14-6 mark in the Big Ten was good enough for a share of the regular-season conference title along with Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Che Roth, Hamilton’s coach at Cannon School, told PressBox that Hamilton committed to Maryland because of the trust his former pupil has in Turgeon and the chance to win big.
“I think Coach kind of laid it out there on what the program’s about, the championship culture,” Roth said. “Jairus is obviously a high-level guy and has NBA aspirations, but he wants to win. He wants to play in an NCAA Tournament, he wants to play in a conference tournament on the last day with hopes of going to a Final Four and winning it all. I think Maryland gives him that.”
Hamilton is from Charlotte, N.C., but if he has a second home, it might be Maryland. He lived in Hyattsville, Md., when Jared played at DeMatha Catholic High School, then later lived in Baltimore for a year when his brother played at St. Frances Academy. While in Baltimore, Hamilton attended Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy West.
Hamilton eventually moved back home to North Carolina and attended Cannon, where he became the second-leading scorer in program history (2,574 points in three years). He played a bit against Wesleyan Christian Academy’s Aaron Wiggins, one of two Terps Hamilton knows. He’s also friends with Darryl Morsell, his former teammate on Baltimore-based AAU squad Team Melo.
Maryland will be a new school for Hamilton, but he’ll be familiar with plenty.
“I was not used to being in Maryland and all that, but looking back, I enjoyed it,” Hamilton said. “It was something different, but I still liked it. It wasn’t a bad spot to be. Having an opportunity to come back here and being down the street from where I used to live and playing places where I thought about and I would watch games and hear how crazy the campus would be going whenever they won a big game and stuff like that, it’s a great culture that I wanted to come and join.”
Hamilton hopes to be able to play right away, but it’s unclear how transfer rules will shake out. Hamilton would typically have to sit out a year, but the NCAA is considering a rule change to allow players to transfer one time without sitting out.
Should Hamilton be allowed to play immediately, he’ll compete for big minutes right away. Center Jalen Smith will likely enter the NBA Draft, while backup forward Ricky Lindo Jr. recently entered his name into the transfer portal. That leaves Donta Scott, Chol Marial and Joshua Tomaic as the lone frontcourt pieces other than Hamilton.
Though he shot just 28.1 percent from 3-point range this past season, Hamilton will bring a blend of athleticism, size and toughness to the frontcourt whenever he’s able to play.
“I know Coach Turgeon is definitely going to give everybody equal opportunity who’s able to suit up for the next year,” Hamilton said. “I just really want to come in and try to compete with a great group of guys. You guys have some great players who have come through there in recent years. … I wanted to go into an environment where I could be able to compete against great competition every single day, be with a great family and learn every single day and just have an opportunity to win at some of the highest levels.”
Roth recalled one play in particular where his competitiveness and skill set stood out at Cannon. The Cougars were playing in the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, N.C., and one of their opponents was Phoenix-based Hillcrest Prep, which was led by Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Roth called a play that was designed for Hamilton to get a lob at the rim. It worked. Hamilton dunked on Ayton, who is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Phoenix Suns this year. Hamilton dunked it in front of Wall, who was sitting on the baseline. The name of the play call was, of course, “Maryland.”
“I can still see that play on Deandre Ayton,” Roth said. “That whole gym stood up. They had to call timeout. There were people on the floor because he put it down on the No. 1 pick. I think he gave them 36 that night. We ended up losing by I think four or five, but Deandre didn’t want anything to do with Jairus Hamilton.”
“It was a crazy highlight. I talked to Deandre a little bit after the game,” Hamilton said. “He was like, ‘Man, you didn’t have to dunk all over us like that. You just put on a little show.’ I was like, ‘Man, appreciate it.’ … John Wall stood up. He was right there on the baseline. John Wall stood up in shock like, ‘Yo, I was not expecting that to happen.’ It was a good moment. It was one of my favorite moments playing.”
For more from Hamilton, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Young Kim