Plans don’t always work out, even if they make all the sense in the world.
But for Eastern Kentucky and newly-minted head coach A.W. Hamilton, the earliest return went according to script. Coming off three straight losing season under Dan McHale — including a 16-34 record in Ohio Valley play — the Colonels turned to Hamilton, handing the program to a coach just a year removed from the prep school ranks.
The move, however, made plenty of sense.
Hamilton is a Kentucky native, being born 40 miles from EKU’s campus. And before one season on Kevin Keatts’ staff at North Carolina State, he had major success leading prep school powerhouse Hargrave Military Academy for six seasons. During that time, he won the National Prep Coach of the Year award twice (2012, 2016), and developed future NBA draft picks Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.
That recruiting potential helped make him appealing to Keatts, who had coached Hamilton while he himself was a player at Hargrave. It was also likely front of mind for the EKU administration when it hired the Kentucky native after the season.
His first recruit seems to check all the boxes. The program announced Wednesday it had landed 6’8’’ forward Tre King, a Lexington native that played last season at, you guessed it, Hargrave Military Academy.
King reportedly held offers from Old Dominion and Murray State, and was also receiving interest from Saint Bonaventure, Marshall and Louisiana Tech per Verbal Commits. While EKU isn’t that far removed from relevance under Jeff Neubauer, it’s trajectory over the past three years isn’t within shouting distance of the rest of those programs.
Murray State, SBU and Marshall all appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season, while ODU was a CUSA contender from wire-to-wire. None of those teams had a coaching change and all of them, to some degree or another, are replacing key pieces and in need of immediate production. That King turned them all down to play for Hamilton could speak volumes about the fast-rising coach’s ability to pull in local talent.
Or, it could mean nothing more than a single recruit having a connection with a coach and wanting to play for him. We’ll have to wait and see as Hamilton continues to try to bring EKU back to the success it saw under Neubauer and Travis Ford.