By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — Luke Hamlin wanted to make a name for himself at Snohomish High School.
It’s safe to say he did.
In his senior season, Hamlin averaged nearly 25 points per game and led Snohomish to the state regionals, where his team came up just short of playing in the quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome, falling to Bellarmine Prep. For his efforts, Hamlin has been named The Herald’s 2012 All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year by Snohomish County.
“It’s been a great four years,” Hamlin said. “I never would have imagined…the way it ended this year was amazing.”
While Hamlin’s game and how he conducted himself on and off the floor made other players and coaches take notice. There was an example set before him at Snohomish and Hamlin wasted little time giving credit to that influence.
“Jon Brockman was, for most basketball players here, kind of a huge guy and role model to look up to,” Hamlin said. “I wanted to, not like really follow in his footsteps, but kind of make my own name and set an example for the younger kids too.”
Hamlin grew up idolizing Brockman as a kid, watching the former Snohomish star develop into a standout at the University of Washington. Brockman currently plays in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Hamlin has gotten to know Brockman on a more personal level in the past few years and even worked out with him this past summer. During the Panthers hot start this past season, Brockman would send a friendly text every once in a while to the current Snohomish star, something Hamlin admits was kind of surreal.
“It really is (surreal),” Hamlin said. “Actually it’s weird now. First I think of him as Jon — I don’t really think of him as an NBA player like I used to when I was a kid in middle school and the ninth grade. But yeah, it’s kind of cool.”
After a shining career at Snohomish, head coach Len Bone, who has seen his share of great players, said Hamlin is one of the best.
“He’s one of the best players that I’ve had here,” Bone said. “I’ve coached at other high schools — one of the best players I’ve coached. Especially the impact he’s had on the program and the other kids in the program, the coaches being able to do things because of him. He’s really had a big impact.”
After what Hamlin accomplished this season, he probably has his fair share of young Panthers fans who look up to him. Hamlin helped Snohomish, a top-10 ranked team in the state for much of the season, to nine straight wins to start the season.
With such a fast start, Hamlin must have expected the success.
No, not at all,” Hamlin said. “My parents ask me this all the time, too, and my family, we always talked about it would be fun to go back to districts and get back into that. But I never would have imagined that we would finish first, tied for first in the Wesco and get second place in the district tournament. It was really surreal. It was awesome. Our five seniors were awesome.”
Hamlin always carried himself with a quiet confidence during the season and earned the respect of foes like Wesco North rival Lake Stevens, which was beaten by Snohomish three times — twice in the regular season and once in districts.
Lake Stevens coach Mark Hein walked away from those losses with an understanding and respect for what Hamlin is all about.
“In terms of a most valuable type player on a team, I thought he was really important to (Snohomish’s) success this year,” Hein said. “As hard as it is to get beat by Snohomish, I really enjoyed playing against Luke’s teams.”
Hein also credited Hamlin for his class on the floor.
“His sportsmanship is outstanding,” he said.
It wasn’t just opposing coaches who took notice of Hamlin. Opposing players saw his greatness as well. Jackson’s Jason Todd, a Herald All-Area First-Team selection with Hamlin, had nothing but praise for Hamlin’s game.
“Luke is very versatile,” Todd said. “He can shoot exceptionally well. He finds ways to get the ball in the hoop. When the game is on the line, he makes big shots.”
The two players, who are friends off the court, faced each other in the 4A District 1 Championship game. Todd’s Timberwolves got the better of the Panthers 60-57 when Hamlin’s 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer.
Seeing Hamlin take that final shot was a scary thing, Todd said: “I never want the ball in Luke’s hands at the very end.”
“I love Luke like a brother,” Todd added. “When it comes down to it, it’s just two guys going at it, two guys that want to win. (Playing against Hamlin) makes me better, and that’s the kind of people I want to play against.”
The Panthers lost the district championship to Jackson, but still qualified for state, where Snohomish drew always tough Bellarmine Prep in the regionals. The Lions beat Snohomish and ended the Panthers’ season.
“The most frustrating thing ever,” Hamlin said of the state’s the playoff format, which doesn’t send teams to the Tacoma Dome anymore until the quarterfinals of the 16-team tournament.
“When they changed (the playoff format) last year it didn’t affect me … Now, it just kills me.”
Anyone who has watched Hamlin knows he is a scorer. And while the ball often ends up in his hands, the senior always puts his team first, his coach said.
“He’s an unselfish player,” Bone said. “He’s smart. He understands that we are trying to score. It just so happens that a lot of the times he was the guy that finished it with a basket. He definitely made his teammates better.”
Basketball has been good to Hamlin, but what does the future hold? Hamlin isn’t quite sure.
He has been accepted to Seattle Pacific University and has been in talks with its coaching staff. He also has been in talks with the coaching staff at Western Washington University. Still, Hamlin said he isn’t sure if college basketball is in his plans.
Hamlin did say if he chooses to play, it will be at either SPU or WWU.
“I’m definitely not going to be one of the guys though that sits out a year and then comes back and plays their sophomore year,” Hamlin said. “For me, I think it’s going to be a decision if I play or not and that is going to be solid and set in stone.”
If Hamlin chooses to play next season, Bone said that any school would be lucky to have him.
“He’s comfortable enough to not worry about what happens if I don’t make this shot,” Bone said. “He would want to take it … He’s a confident fighter and he would want to take the last shot.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.