The path that led him there was complicated, and, coincidentally, it almost led him to USC, to the team he essentially beat single-handedly in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament.
If you believe Tim Floyd, the Texas-El Paso coach and former USC coach, Hamilton nearly transferred to the Trojans.
Hamilton, a McDonald’s All-American in high school, signed a national letter of intent with Floyd and UTEP. Before he arrived on campus, though, he had second thoughts. His grandmother, who died on Sunday, was ill, and Hamilton, who is from Los Angeles, said he wanted to go to school somewhere where he could be closer to her.
USC was reportedly one of the schools he was targeting, but Floyd said he wouldn’t grant Hamilton a release. One of the reasons, Floyd said, was he believed USC Coach Andy Enfield was tampering with his player.
Months earlier, Hamilton and his brother had worked out at USC, and at the time, Floyd called Enfield, believing he was trying to poach Hamilton. Enfield told him he wasn’t offering Hamilton anything. (The coaches’ relationship is further complicated by the fact that USC athletic director Pat Hayden contacted Floyd about the USC job before hiring Enfield.)
“Sure enough three months later with USC on his Facebook page, [Hamilton] backed out of his letter of intent,” Floyd told reporters in 2013. “He called, we discussed that in a very serious vein. He asked me not to turn them in, and that they just wouldn’t take him. But we didn’t end up with him and that was a lick.”
Hamilton ultimately transferred to UCLA and sat out last season as a freshman, but the spat between Enfield and Floyd didn’t end.
Enfield was quoted in a 2013 Men’s Journal article telling a group of boosters: “Tim Floyd shows up every day at work and realizes he lives in El Paso, Texas, and he's pissed off that he didn't get the USC job two months ago. I told him, 'Tim, if I could have all this power to somehow convince a family to do this, why the heck didn't the kid come last spring, when I first got the job?'"
Furious, Floyd confronted Enfield when both men were coaching in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last season, according to Sports Illustrated. Enfield said he had been trying to apologize. News reports from the scene indicate both sets of assistant coaches had to be separated.
Since then, Hamilton has had an up-and-down sophomore season at UCLA, but on Thursday, he had a career game.
It just so happened to come at the expense of USC, which had its share of controversy over a player who never enrolled there.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand