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Hamilton made up for his lack of size

Note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles of 2019 Saint Francis University Hall of Fame inductees. The induction ceremony is scheduled for July 26:

LORETTO — Speak to anyone about Jeff Hamilton and the same words consistently come up: intense, warrior, relentless.

The third all-time leading scorer in Saint Francis history, Hamilton outworked his opponent for all 1,810 of his points.

Listed at 6 feet, 4 inches in the official media guide, but more around the 6-2 or 6-3 range according to those who played with him, Hamilton is described as a tweener between a big guard or undersized post.

“Jeff didn’t really have a position,” said his former head coach of two years Dave Magarity. “When I saw him play at Spingarn High School in Washington D.C. I could tell why he didn’t have more big offers and that was solely because of his size. But he was so relentless in the way he played that I knew we could find a role for him.”

As a freshman, Hamilton was part of a team that started four underclassmen alongside Tony Washington. Fellow classmate and Washington D.C. native Napoleon Lightning was a big-time recruit out of powerhouse Macklin Catholic High School where he was teammates with Johnny Dawkins.

A standout career himself, Lightning says it was Hamilton who led the young team.

“He was always ready to play,” said Lightning. “Before every game he’d come up to me and tell me to get him the ball. His saying was, ‘I’ll get us started fellas,’ and he said that before every game.”

Hamilton developed into a great all-around player and could score in a variety of ways as evidence by a 28-point performance vs. Baltimore as a freshman.

“He could beat you inside or outside,” said Lightning. “It just depended on the night, and he had it going that night.”

Magarity credits his success to his mentality.

“He was the most intense guy and always played with an edge. I think he had a chip on his shoulder from not being recruited to a bigger program so every time he took the floor he was out to prove people wrong.”

“Just a great player,” said his teammate Jim Conway. “He was relentless and came to play every night.”

Hamilton continued to develop into a star, playing for Kevin Porter over his last two years.

Known as Hoops Hamilton or Sugar Bear, Hamilton went on to earn AP Honorable Mention All-American honors after his senior season in 1984-85, the first Saint Francis AP All-American since Maurice Stokes in 1955. He averaged 19.0 points per game that season.

“It’s always difficult for a student-athlete to dedicate themselves to a coaching staff they weren’t recruited by but Jeff never gave anything less than 100%,” said Porter. “I was blessed to coach him.”

A member of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette District College All-Star Team after the 1983-84 season, Hamilton twice earned ECAC Metro All-Conference honors.

He was hopeful to hear his name called in the NBA Draft but was passed up, most likely because of his size.

“I remember he was disappointed when he didn’t get drafted,” recalled Conway.

Hamilton passed away in 2018 but will always be remembered for his accomplishments in Loretto.

“He was terrific,” said Magarity. “Not only was he one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching but he was a hard work who was able to expand his game to become a complete all-round ball player.”

Taylor Powers works for Saint Francis University.

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