CONCORD, N.C. — Cannon school coach Ché Roth has run out of superlatives to describe 2018 wing sensation Jairus Hamilton, who has the size, strength, ability, personality and intellect to be a winner both on on and off the court.
“He’s a check-every-box kind of kid,” Roth said after a Cannon 94-70 win Friday afternoon over Northside Christian Academy.
“We didn’t settle. I scheduled through the roof on purpose,” Roth said. “We settled a lot (early season), but in the last month we’re sharing the ball better, we’re moving with a purpose and we’re getting the ball to our spot out of our offense in rhythm.”
The Cougars were led by standout performances from Hamilton and fellow junior Qon Murphy . They combined for 50 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
“It’s a lot of fun, because both of those kids really love to be coached, Roth said about Murphy and Hamilton. “That’s really rare. They are very humble kids. They don’t have all the answers. They want to be challenged. They want to be in the gym. They just love it. When your best players are your hardest workers, it just filters down.
“We don’t have an ego on the team. Even with Jairus, whose head could be in the sky — he’s just a regular kid who comes in and does his work. It’s nice having two kids who are ultra-talented and are excellent passers, but both can go get a bucket too.”
Hamilton, who was 10-for-12 from the field, got to the rim often with little resistance.
“If you do, you’ll feel it for awhile,” Roth said about those who get in the way of Hamilton's rim-runs.
Roth likes the evolution of Hamilton’s game so far this season.
“In the past, he’s sort of sat back and let the game come to him. He’s really kind of ramped things up and become more aggressive,” he said. “He’s taking the ownership role of dictating how play is going to happen. It’s really helped our team and helped him get into the flow a little bit.
“He’s an exceptional passer. Four year ago, the kid is 5-foot-9 and a point guard. He’s grown a foot in about three-or-four years and still has those point guard tendencies. He’s a really good passer. I still think he’s too unselfish. He could be a little more aggressive and a little more assertive. Those are areas we’ve seen big growth from last year to this year. Tonight he had 24 points on maybe 12 shots. That’s pretty efficient. He’s really doing a good job of working on his handle, and working on his perimeter game.”
Hamilton has taken on the leadership role for Roth’s Cougars.
“He’s not afraid to tell guys the expectations for our team. He works within the framework of the offense and doesn’t force a lot,” Roth said. “Just like anybody, he’ll take a bad shot every now and then. But from an overall context of things, he’s great to coach.”
Cannon has played a grueling early-season schedule including games against Oak Hill Academy (Va.) and Oldsmar Christian (Fl.). Hamilton has twice seen potential game-winning shots rim out for him this year.
“He was good, but not great<” Roth said about Hamilton’s play against other elite teams across the country. “He laboured a bit and settled a bit. He’s hard on himself. He was a high ceiling. I think he’s weathered some of that. Those are character moments. He has a high expectation for himself.”
Roth was effusive in his praise of Hamilton’s work ethic and character off the court as well.
“I’m proud of the fact that he’s an exceptional kid of character. I don’t see him very much without people around him. It’s organic and not fake,” Roth said. “People gravitate to him because of him personality. He’s exceptionally unselfish as a person. His dad is a pastor and he has a great mother. Education is very important to them. Hard work. Great values. Plus I am proud he’s a 3.6 (GPA) student.”