The Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball season will kick off in less than a week. Head coach A.W. Hamilton is excited to begin his tenth year as a head coach and his fourth season as head coach for the Colonels.
“You are always growing and you are always learning,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been a head coach for a long time, I think this will be my tenth year but every year I take something and I always say, gosh if I would have known that last year I would’ve been better.”
Hamilton said that being head coach is a feeling that he can’t describe.
“I love those guys, whether they know it all the time, I don’t think they do, I put everything I’ve got into them and I want them to do everything that they’ve set out to do for themselves and this team,” Hamilton said. “It’s an honor coaching them but it’s an honor coaching at Eastern Kentucky. I want to be the Roy Kidd of EKU basketball.”
Hamilton said the key to each season is staying healthy. The team this season contains three starters, along with a most improved player, Devontae Blanton.
“I love our group, we’re an old group, we’re a mature group, we’re an experienced group,” Hamilton said. “I love how they have come together and our new guys have blended in with our returning guys.”
Hamilton said this season is going to be special but it will take some time.
“Last year, how we ended, we’re not going to look like that day one, it just doesn’t happen like that,” Hamilton said. “There’s going to be some bumps in the road but I love the potential of this team.”
Hamilton said the practices leading up to the season opener, the team has not had any bad days.
“We haven’t had many great days but we haven’t had really bad days,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been very consistent with our effort ... that excites me about this group.”
Hamilton emphasizes on practicing, rather than focusing on just the games.
“I love being in the gym, I love being in there for a long time,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the team this season has an average age of 23-years-old and is one of the oldest in the league.
“We’re so old and there’s a lot of miles on these guys' tires that I’ve had to pull back,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he has had to change up his coaching style this year to manage the team differently because of the experience of the team.
“It’s been different how I’ve structured practice,” Hamilton said.
Team building is a big part of allowing the new players to get comfortable with the returning players. Hamilton said they do their best to allow the team to hangout off the court.
“We’ve had them over to my house multiple times, we’ll do activities like that and then a lot of our guys live together in apartment complexes right beside each other,” Hamilton said. “It wasn’t designed like that but it’s happened like that and it’s been really good for our guys.”
Hamilton said this team is different from past seasons that he has coached.
“This collection is a bit different and I’m looking at them, like it’s almost too good,” Hamilton said. “I have to find a reason to get mad at them sometimes.”
The Colonels have been picked to finish second place in the ASUN Conference in the preseason polls.
“We don’t deserve to be picked number one but I would like to one day to say that we’ve earned the right to be picked preseason number one, I look forward to that day,” Hamilton said. “Preseason rankings don’t really mean a whole lot but I would like at some point to earn the right to be preseason number one.”
Hamilton said the players individually make their own goals for the season but they don’t talk about their individual goals. Instead, they make bigger goals for the team as a whole.
“I have goals that I try to want them to want but I leave that up to them and I let them vote on team captains,” Hamilton said. “We’ll have a meeting … then we’ll put those goals on our mirror in the locker room.”
The Colonels have broken 18 school records under Hamilton in three seasons. Hamilton said in 1982, former head coach Max Good set the school record for the most season tickets sold in a season.
“I think before we tip it off next Tuesday, we’ll break our nineteenth school record,” Hamilton said. “We are on pace and we’re on track to break that record. I hope we break our nineteenth school record before we play a game and I hope we break more.”
EKU was a part of the Ohio Valley Conference for 73 years and has officially moved to the ASUN Conference.
“I think our fans are going to get to see something they haven’t seen ... there’s a lot of programs that we’re not familiar with and our fans are not familiar with,” Hamilton said.
The Colonels will host Georgetown College, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in McBrayer Arena.