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Marsalis Hamilton: the 27th man

Bree Gannon, Sports Editor

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Football coach Joe Paterno once said, “Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things.” The Huffington Post wrote an article about the nine common characteristics of people who are destined for greatness. A few of those being humble, hardworking and learn from failure. All three of those describe senior men’s basketball player, Marsalis Hamilton.

Upon entering into Kate’s gym on Jan. 13, head coach John Ellenwood pulled Hamilton aside and gave him one goal for that game.

“Before the game, Coach ‘Wood was like ‘I have a challenge for you today’ and I was yeah what’s up coach and he said ‘I want you to score 20 points’ so I said alright,” Hamilton said. “My career high is 28 and I’ve scored 20 a bunch of times so I was like alright, put up a few more shots than usual and go out there and be aggressive. I get fouled and go to the line, make a free throw and I hear applause and usually you hear your name right after and I hear the applause and I’m running back on defense and I hear ‘Congratulations’ and I was like dang okay thats why coach. I had no idea, it’s a relieving feeling and felt great.”

A career high 21 points from Hamilton added to the team’s 78-66 win over Purdue Northwest and landed him as the 27th player in AU history to score 1,000 points.

“I’ve always thought Marsails was one of the most professional young men I’ve ever coached,” Ellenwood said. “He is very mature in the way he handles himself and he has been a leader for the program. He has been outstanding in his leadership. He spells out how he has had a very professional career here in terms of how he has handled himself, his team and coaches and it’s satisfying to me as a coach to see someone that dedicated to get that accomplishment.”

Earning your way onto an elite list of members doesn’t come easy or even start at the college level. It goes way back to first learning how to walk and having “mentor” to look up too and help you along the way.

“I don’t want to say I was destined for basketball but I have an older brother, Miles who is 18 months older than me, and he was playing with a little play hoop when I was born,” Hamilton said. “At a young age I played summer ball with my dad, he was our coach, so I don’t want to say I was destined for basketball but I was catered to it at a young age.”

Hamilton attended St. Edward’s High School in Berea and was apart of the 2014 state championship team. He was also a member of the 2012 team that went to the Final Four. He was a two-time all-Ohio player and had first-team all-Cleveland district mentions.

After a successful high school career, Hamilton came to Ashland for a few reasons but the main was in hopes of changing the culture.

“Coming here I wanted to change the culture and that is what Wendell Davis pushed on me when I first got recruited here,” Hamilton said. “What sold me here at Ashland was three things and the first was the team as a whole. The guys were cool and honest with me and talked about how they wanted to shape the culture at Ashland and how it had been rough. What it could be and what it is now, it full circle turned around and that’s what really sold me.”

The second reason the choice to come to Ashland was so easy was coach Ellenwood. Hamilton said he thought he was a really cool and relatable guy that offered a vision for his future.
“He really saw a vision for me,” Hamilton said. “I remember one specific sentence he said to me during my visit when he was recturiting me, he said ‘Think like a 30-year-old not like a 20-year -old’ that really sunk in with me.”

The third reason was what the school had to offer him to secure his future and that was the business program.

“I really took the program into account because I was like the ball is going to stop bouncing one day and I need to secure my education and secure what I want to do with my future and coach ‘Wood really pushed that upon me and I really appreciate that.”

In his first year dressed in the purple and gold, Hamilton played in 29 games and averaged 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The 2015-2016 season brought a starting position in all 31 games and an average of 12.2 points per game. He tied for third on the team in steals with 26 and was third in assists with 65. The 2016-2107 season came with 9.9 points per game and a start in 27 games.

So far this season, Hamilton is averaging 10.9 points per game and was named to the preseason first-team GLIAC South. He has also named as the Donley Player of the Game on Jan 16 after the victory against Purdue Northwest.

In that game, Hamilton earned a season-high 21 points, went 6-for-7 from the line and had three rebounds and assists. That game will also go down as a game he will remember forever as he became the 27th member of the 1,000 point club. However, stats like that are something Hamilton doesn’t pay attention too, for him it is more about individual games.

“I’m more of a team orientated guy, more about wins than anything else,” Hamilton said. “In high school I didn’t get a 1,000 points but I did win a state title. The main focus was wins and 1,000 points came along with it, so I’m happy and I know my family, friends and teammates are happy with me but I still have a lot more work to do.”

Being able to say your name is amongst so many great players that have walked through Kate’s doors is an opportunity that many do not get to brag about. Hamilton’s feelings toward the situation are humbling and when asked about those feelings, he only had one in particular.

“I feel blessed,” Hamilton said. “God has given me a good opportunity to play the game I love with the people I love to do it with. It’s great that I can join a club with Wendell, Adrian Cook and Boo Osbourne and the guys I was here with. It feels cool and it’s a great accomplishment but I am a winner guy and care about wins.”

The accomplishment holds a special place in the minds of coach Ellenwood and the rest of the team as well. It also holds a special meaning for the program and its history.

“It is nice especially because, unselfishly, I like having guys that I coach join those guys that have been there,” Ellenwood said. “There is a great list of names on there and when one of your guys joins that club it’s something we can’t take away from him and I am very proud to add somebody from this class and generation to that list of great names.”

For the rest of the season, the goals for Hamilton and the rest of the team are simple and well aimed.

“Continue to build great habits going into the postseason,” Hamilton said. “I know we fell short, the past three years and winning a GLIAC title is up there. Number one on my list is each game that week, one by one. The ultimate goal is a GLIAC title and then a run in the NCAA tournament.”

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