Normally at this time of year, Julian Hammond is getting his throwing arm loosened while getting reacquainted with his shoulder pads and football helmet.
In fact, as Hammond begins his collegiate athletic career, several of his former Cherry Creek High School teammates have been getting ready for the Colorado Buffaloes’ 2021 football season across campus. For Hammond, though, his football days are officially behind him. And for the first time in his life, Hammond is focusing exclusively on basketball.
As part of the Buffs’ highly-regarded 2021 recruiting class, Hammond, a 6-foot-2 guard, has been getting accustomed to the college game during the Buffs’ summer practices, which conclude Wednesday before the club departs for a four-game exhibition trip to Costa Rica.
“I know some of (the football players), so that’s cool,” Hammond said. “I miss it a little bit, but this is where I want to be.”
Hammond’s place in the back court pecking order moved up a notch with the recent, sudden departure of Western Carolina transfer Mason Faulkner. CU head coach Tad Boyle always has been a proponent of allowing young athletes to play multiple sports, but he likely has never had a recruit boasting the football pedigree of Hammond.
At Cherry Creek, Hammond went 23-0 as a starting quarterback, leading the Bruins to consecutive Class 5A state titles in 2019 and 2020. In basketball, Hammond also ended his prep career as Cherry Creek’s all-time leader in points and 3-pointers. While Hammond has never been fully dedicated to basketball, Boyle believes that part-time approach to the game has left Hammond with a much higher ceiling with his basketball skills than the typical first-year player.
“One of the things that was exciting about signing him is he was a two-sport guy in high school, so he hasn’t really dedicated his life to basketball yet,” Boyle said. “Now that he’s here, we can get him in the weight room for basketball purposes, and be in the gym working on his game year-round. We feel like his upside is higher than maybe the normal guy who’s been doing that since seventh or eighth grade.
“He’s a guy who doesn’t wow you with his size, or his speed, or his quickness. But he’s pretty fast. He’s pretty quick. He’s a good shooter. He’s a good defender. Seeing him from the first workout to the last practice, the improvement and the confidence level, he’s made huge, huge strides.”
It remains to be seen where Hammond might fit into a back court rotation likely to include Eli Parquet, Keeshawn Barthelemy, Nique Clifford and highly touted freshman KJ Simpson. Hammond and fellow freshman Jason Ruffin also could be in the mix, and the upcoming Costa Rica trip will allow Hammond an opportunity to continue adjusting to the college game in a competitive setting.
“The biggest adjustment is the speed and the strength of the game,” Hammond said. “It’s a lot different than high school basketball players. And here, you’re playing against a bunch of other really good players who were always the best players on their teams. Putting all that together, it’s going to take some time, but it’s good to get going.”
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