Tuesday, January 8, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
For Chattanooga men’s basketball, the emotional leader and team captain is back.
Chattanooga senior point guard Dontay Hampton, hampered by ACL surgery, followed by rehab since July, has returned to practice and not a day too soon.
“Dontay is our best defender, team leader, captain and we are glad to have him back and ready to play for the Mocs,” said UTC head coach John Shulman.
“We have two more games on this three-game Southern Conference road trip (Thursday at The Citadel and Saturday at the College of Charleston) and Dontay brings stability and experience to the lineup and we need all that he offers with such a young team.
It was this time last year – Jan.7, 2012 to be exact – as UTC and Appalachian State were tied 65-65 in the final seconds at McKenzie Arena.
And Hampton grabbed a rebound and raced 90 feet past the Appalachian State players – in Eddie Lacy-like style (i.e. Alabama vs. Notre last night) – to make the game winning basket with 0.8 seconds remaining and a 65-63 Mocs victory at home.
Fast forward a year and UTC players, coaches and fans hope that the knee brace-wearing Hampton can do much the same (i.e. make big plays) when the Mocs (6-9 overall, 1-1 in SoCon play), who have won four of their last five games, face The Citadel (3-9, 0-2) and College of Charleston (10-4, 2-0).
“My knee is fine and I am ready to go,” said the 6-1 Hampton Monday afternoon before practice at the Chattem basketball practice facility on campus.
It’s been tough not being able to play the first couple of months of the season, but I have been able to see a lot of things from the sidelines that I would not have seen if I was on the court.”
But far from one to just sit on the sidelines and wait for the knee to heal, Hampton has worked hard at rehab the past five months.
“Dontay has been focused on getting back on the court as soon as possible and he has been diligent in doing his rehab three times a day,” said Chattanooga Arts and Sciences assistant basketball coach Zach Dragoo.
“He has been a self-motivator since he started three years for us here at CSAS (2006-2008) and is one of the best point guards we have had in the past 25 years.”
That self- motivation and drive to succeed helped Hampton lead the Patriots under head coach Mark Dragoo to 99 wins in four years and a Class A state runner-up finish in 2007 and also be a father-figure in the home.
“Starting when I was 11, I took care of my younger brother, Malik (now a sophomore at CSAS), made sure he was up, dressed and fed and off to day care before I went to school,” said Hampton who played middle school hoops at CSLA before earning District Player of the Year and all-state honors twice at CSAS.
“Tay” then turned down offers to play college basketball out of town to stay home to take care of his brother and also to play for the Mocs as a walk-on player.
“I didn’t play a lot of summer AAU ball in high school and combined with playing in the smallest classification (Class A) seemed to cause college coaches to not show much interest in me,” stated Hampton who made the Athletic Director's Honor Roll last year. “But that’s okay and I am glad to be at UTC.”
His diligence and hard work earned him a scholarship prior to his junior season when he averaged 7.1 points, one assist and one steal a game.
“To show you how focused he has been with his rehab, he and Malik were at our house opening Christmas presents on Dec. 23 and after dinner he went to the gym to work out,” said Dragoo.
“Some people might have rested during the holidays, but not Dontay. That’s how determined he has been to get back on the court.”
And later this week, Hampton will be determined and focused to lead the Mocs to a pair of key road conference wins.
All the lonely nights in the gym by himself the past few months working on his game or in rehab will have been worth it.
contact B.B. Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org