Isaac Hamilton's Request to Leave UTEP for USC Shows Dunk City's Powerful Draw
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The basketball programs in Los Angeles were about as appealing as watching hoops on an old black-and-white TV back in November when local prep star Isaac Hamilton decided to attend UTEP.
That was before Dunk City got a new postal code. That was before Andy Enfield brought his up-and-down style to USC.
Hamilton noticed, and now he wants out—or rather, he wants in.
The Los Angeles Times' Diane Pucin reported on Saturday that Hamilton has decided he wants to attend USC. UTEP coach Tim Floyd, the former coach of the Trojans, has refused to let Hamilton out of his letter of intent and Hamilton is appealing to the National Letter of Intent Steering Committee.
Speaking with Bill Knight of the El Paso Times, Floyd aired his feelings on the subject:
He had two choices—one, not to sign the letter of intent or two, to file an appeal. I'm not releasing him. 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.
Speaking of twos, Coach Floyd, you are right that this is about two things: change and a silly contract.
That silly contract is the national letter of intent. Unless Hamilton wins his plea, he'll sit out next year if he decides to not play at UTEP—it would be a real shocker to see him go back now.
Hamilton is one of the best incoming freshman guards in the country—Rivals.com ranks him as the 14th-best player in the 2013 class—and that made his commitment to UTEP an odd one, but as often happens in college basketball, things changed from November to July.
Back in November, Ben Howland was headed for his unavoidable termination and USC basketball was... USC basketball.
What this is about is a teenager changing his mind when something new and shiny was put in front of him. It's no different than a coach finding a better player and moving on.
This also is an extremely public story that tells us something that everyone is going to start to notice really soon: Enfield is going to land some players, particularly in Southern California, who never would have considered USC in the past.
That Los Angeles Times story also has a very telling quote from Dave Benezra—an AAU coach in LA—describing the difference between the recruiting styles of USC and UCLA: "USC is new media. UCLA is old media. USC is pop. UCLA is rock 'n' roll."
New media usually sells itself. And that's what Enfield has right now. The Florida Gulf Coast run—and the highlights it provided—has recruits interested.
It looked fun. Teenagers like fun.
That may seem like a simplistic view of what makes USC viable in recruiting, but until Enfield loses a bunch of games or changes his style, USC will be hip.
Hamilton wanted to be part of it and Floyd is ticked, which he should be. He's losing a player who probably would have made a big impact. As he said, he made moves based on the assumption that Hamilton would be on campus.
Hamilton claims that he wants to stay back home to be close to his ill grandmother. Obviously, Floyd thinks that's a load of you-know-what.
It's against NCAA rules to keep recruiting a player after he has signed his letter of intent. There's no way for anyone to know whether that happened, Hamilton really changed his mind because of his grandmother or simply saw something else he liked better.
What we do know is that the circumstances surrounding his decision in November are not the same as they are now. A coach landed in his hometown with a brand that had more appeal than what was there before. A better option presented itself.
And when a better option comes along for the coaches, they can get out of the NLI contract. That's fair, huh?
Eventually, this will all blow over. The rule is the rule and it's not a good rule. That's nothing new.
But USC as a destination for talented basketball players, that is (mostly) new. Floyd had a decent run, but he couldn't keep his nose clean—see: Mayo, O.J. It's probably not wise to act high and mighty behind the letter of a bad law.
There's no stopping Hamilton from eventually playing at USC, where Enfield has already landed three transfers since taking over.
If Enfield can truly bring the fun to USC, more Hamiltons will follow and they're no going to have to backtrack on their word.
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