Former Americus-Sumter star Shaquille Harris, left, comes to ASU after playing for Enterprise CC and Division I Mercer, while former Worth County star Jerome Hamilton played for Division I Wichita State and then Connors State College in Oklahoma before deciding to return home and play for the Rams.
ALBANY — Shaquille Harris turned Albany State down once. He wasn’t about to do it again.
Harris, a former Americus-Sumter star, joined former Worth County star Jerome Hamilton in signing national letter-of-intents Thursday to play basketball for the Rams.
Harris and Hamilton are just a part of a historic signing class for the men’s program, which was first reported by The Herald late last month. Former Thomasville star Trey Gosier signed last month, while former Monroe big man Brandon Johnson and former Deerfield-Windsor star Reggie Brown could possibly commit in the coming weeks — giving ASU its largest number of former area players joining all at once.
“I wanted to come back and go somewhere where I could play and make a difference,” said Harris, who was recruited by Albany State last year after graduating from Enterprise State Community College in Alabama but instead decided to attend Division I Mercer for one year.
Now he’s coming back home, and he’s ready to start a tradition.
“I can be that start of something here,” he said Thursday. “We can start a new winning tradition at Albany State.”
The Rams have struggled in recent years on the basketball court but appeared to be on the upswing last season when they finished 13-15 overall and won nearly twice as many games as they did in 2010.
Two local kids — Josh Alford of Worth County and Andrew Covin of Dougherty — were a part of last season’s success, and ASU coach Chris Cameron said Thursday that his recent signing class is another step in the right direction.
“We wanted to get more athletic,” Cameron said. “Last year, we had only three guys who could throw the ball down during the game. Everybody we are signing now is very athletic. At any given moment, they can make a play above the rim, and that’s what we are looking for. We didn’t just want big guys making plays above the rim, but we wanted the guards who could make a steal, dribble down the court, throw it down and bring the crowd to their feet.”
Harris and Hamilton certainly have that ability.
Harris, a 6-foot-2 guard who was an all-state honorable mention his senior year at Americus, averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and four steals per game in his final season at Enterprise before transferring to Mercer, where he saw limited playing time and averaged just 1.4 points per game.
Hamilton is a 6-7 post who had just 10 minutes of playing time his freshman season at Division I Wichita State two years ago before transferring to Connors State College in Oklahoma, where he averaged 7.6 points and 4.9 rebounds last year.
“I’m really excited to come home,” said Hamilton, who was recruited by Morehead State and several schools in Oklahoma after his recent graduation from junior college. “Me and Josh Alford have been talking about this (upcoming) season. I think I can play a pretty big part on the team.”
So does Cameron, who said Hamilton will be one of ASU’s key post players.
“Our goal this offseason was to get some guys with talent and who are athletic. Hamilton fit that, and him being from South Georgia makes it even better,” Cameron said. “He has an athletic ability and a knack for rebounding. To have a big guy that can run and jump is always a plus in our league, because most post players in our league are slow and not athletic.”