2013 McDonald's All American Games

Report: Former UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton enrolls at UCLA


In the aftermath of their missing out on point guards Jordan McLaughlin and Quentin Snider, the question has been asked in many circles what the next step would be for the UCLA basketball program. This year’s roster doesn’t have a concrete answer at the position, and it’s something that becomes even more problematic when looking towards the future under head coach Steve Alford.

But the Bruins may have found an answer, one that while a bit unconventional is also an extremely talented one.

That answer: McDonald’s All-American Isaac Hamilton. After having his request to be released from the National Letter of Intent he signed after committing to attend UTEP denied, Hamilton had to move quickly in finding another school to attend this fall. According to Neal Nieves of Bruin Sports Report, Hamilton was admitted into UCLA Friday and has begun the process of enrolling in classes.

While Hamilton will not be allowed to play this season (and he loses a year of eligibility), he is eligible to join the program and receive an athletic scholarship. This is a highly valuable addition for coach Alford and his staff, and given the questions at point guard Hamilton having to sit out a year could be a blessing in disguise should they entertain the possibility of using him there in 2014-15.

As a senior at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., Hamilton averaged 22.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on a team that won the CIF Southern Section Class 3A title. There’s no doubt that he’s got the talent needed to make an immediate impact at UCLA. The question is whether or not he’s the best answer for the Bruins at the point in 2014-15, with Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine (and whoever the Bruins could possibly reel in on the recruiting trail, but the pickings are slim at this stage).

National Letter of Intent committee denies Isaac Hamilton’s waiver request

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Last fall Isaac Hamilton, one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the 2013 class, announced his decision to attend UTEP. A five-star prospect, Hamilton had the talent needed to make the Miners a dominant program in the new era of Conference USA.

But in July, Hamilton announced his desire to be released from the National Letter of Intent he signed that locked him in to attending UTEP. Head coach Tim Floyd refused the request, ultimately resulting in Hamilton and his family having to appeal the decision in front of the NLI committee. On Friday it was reported by Andy Katz of ESPN.com that the request for a waiver has been denied, meaning that Hamilton cannot play college basketball at another school this season.

Greg Hamilton said his son will now pursue finding a school, preferably a Pac-12 school in the Los Angeles area. He would attend academically but won’t be able to play this season.

“We will get him in school and enroll him,” said Greg Hamilton, who added Isaac has been at home during this process. “We know he’ll have several opportunities. We want it to be in the Pac-12 so his mother can see him play, since she is the primary caretaker for his grandmother.”

With Hamilton’s request to be release being denied, it’s once again time to ask why an elite prospect would sign the NLI to begin with. The majority of student-athletes need to do so in order to “lock in” their spot, because if they refused to do so the school would simply go about recruiting another prospect (and that can happen even if they do sign the NLI).

But for a player of Hamilton’s caliber, why not just sign the grant-in-aid (which is the document that has to be signed, with or without the NLI, in order to lock in the scholarship)? Do that, and if there were to be an issue (coaching change, family illness, etc.) it’s a lot easier to make a move. That isn’t the case when it comes to the NLI, as Hamilton and his family have come to find out.

So where will Isaac land? His father’s quotes in Katz’s story focus on the Pac-12 due to Isaac’s grandmother’s illness, and that may be the easiest move to make given the fact that many schools have already begun classes (schools on the quarter system likely won’t begin classes until later this month). And while Floyd left the door open for Isaac to change course and attend UTEP, that isn’t an option for the family according to Katz.

Wherever Hamilton lands, that school will have a player capable of being one of the nation’s best guards. But the fact of the matter is that this situation could have been avoided had he not signed the NLI.

UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton requests release from National Letter of Intent

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When shooting guard Isaac Hamilton announced that he would attend UTEP back in November, the Miner faithful were hopeful that he would be the centerpiece of a program that has made just three NCAA tournament appearances since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1992 (their most recent trip came in 2010).

With Hamilton joining a rotation that currently features forwards John Bohannon (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and  Julian Washburn (12.2, 4.2), the hope was that Tim Floyd’s program would take a step towards asserting itself as one of Conference USA’s preeminent programs in the aftermath of Memphis’ departure to the American Athletic Conference.

Those plans have hit a major snag, as it was reported that Hamilton has asked to be released from his National Letter of Intent (NLI). According to Floyd, in making the request Hamilton cited the health of his grandmother as the reason why he’d like to be released.

But that hasn’t swayed the head coach, who has denied the request.

“He had two choices – one, not to sign the letter of intent or two, to file an appeal. I’m not releasing him,” Floyd said according to Bill Knight of the El Paso Times. “We have made our schedule based on having Isaac. People have bought season tickets based on our having Isaac. It’s too late.

“He can appeal and we’ll wait to see what happens. If he is allowed out, we might as well not even have letters of intent.”

Signing the NLI locks the student-athlete into that particular school for a full academic year, but if signed the NLI can be very difficult to get out of should the dynamic between the student-athlete and school change (the coach leaves, for example).

In the case of a high-caliber recruit (Hamilton would fit this description), why even sign it? Signing the financial aid agreement by itself accomplishes the same basic goal as the NLI, and it’s easier to make a move to another school if necessary.

And when it comes to a high-caliber player, would the coach really tell him that if he signs the financial aid agreement and not the NLI they won’t hold a scholarship for him? Tough to see a program taking that stance.

Of course Hamilton can attend another school, but with the signing of the NLI that would mean that he’d have to sit out the upcoming season and lose a year of eligibility. Is he willing to take this step if the appeal is denied?

This development comes just three days after another shooting guard from Los Angeles, 6-2 Andre Spight, learned that he did not qualify academically and as a result he’ll attend junior college this upcoming season.

So within a week UTEP has lost two quality players at the shooting guard position.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.