Leading by example
Talk to either of Rugby High School’s two seniors on the boys basketball team and you may forget which one is which.
It’s not because Chris Hamilton and Jaedon Haman are remarkably similar in appearance. Rather, the starting guards are near identical in character, leadership and dependability.
“I’m not really looking to score as much points,” Hamilton said, “but l’m (supposed) to lead the offense and make sure plays are run correctly and get it into the post and let our big guys do the work.”
Haman on his role: “Play solid defense and move the ball around, find the opening, make good cuts and shut down one of their best players.”
Haman and Hamilton are fourth and fifth on the team in scoring with averages of 6.9 and 6.1, respectively. It doesn’t bother either that the other three starters – juniors Brad Heidlebaugh, Tanner Bernhardt and Zach Miller – average double figures. The No. 2-ranked Panthers (7-0) understand they have the tools to return to the state tournament and each player has a significant role in that quest.
“Neither one of them says a whole lot, but in practices they always go hard,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “They don’t have to talk a big game, they lead by example. They’re both willing to do whatever you ask them to do and they’re really good teammates.”
Hamilton is 6-foot-1 point guard and has the ability to hit from long range and take a smaller defender to the post. Haman is 5-foot-9 shooting guard and is assuming Hamilton’s role from last season, locking down the opposing team’s top guard. Through the team’s first seven games, Hamilton has 45 assists for a remarkable 3.75 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Haman is in the top five of nearly every statistical category, but his value isn’t the quantifiable kind. Despite being the team’s top perimeter defender, no numbers pop out and that’s because the players he guards are often looking to get rid of the ball as soon as possible.
“(Haman’s) probably one of our hardest workers,” Hamilton said. “He plays great ‘D’ and he stays in front of his guy. A lot of times he’ll get the toughest guard on the other team, the quickest guy. He always does a good job shutting them down.”
Haman on Hamilton: “He’s a good player. He hits some good shots when he needs to. He helps us get into offensive sets. He’s the leader on the court, plays good ‘D’ and we need him.”
Both players watched the way their predecessors led and followed suit. Hamilton said the previous senior class was the catalyst in getting the program to take offseason training seriously. In the early part of their careers, neither provided much offensively, but both bought into Santjer’s system and knew they would have to work on their games to be viable contributors. Hamilton said his shot has improved incredibly thanks to summer camps and proved it with huge 3-pointers against Bishop Ryan, in the team’s greatest test so far this season.
Haman’s improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed either.
“He likes to pull up from about 12 feet for a jump shot and that’s a huge improvement over the years,” Santjer said. “He’s capable of knocking down an outside shot where in previous years we probably shied away from it a little bit.”
Haman said he no longer second-guesses scoring opportunities and harnesses the confidence the coaching staff shows. The senior duo does more than enough to garner that confidence.
“They’ve come a long way,” Santjer said. “They’re not gonna kill you on the floor. Any situation, they can adapt to it. … They know the game of basketball. They’ve played a ton of basketball. Just watching them grow up and everybody does kind of look up to them still. They’re the seniors, they’re the captains.”
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