The quietest All-American the Connecticut Huskies ever produced, and easily the most underrated, will get his moment of glory when the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inducts Rip Hamilton this November as part of its 2022 class.
It says “Richard Hamilton” on the official release placing Hamilton into the Hall along with fellow greats Frank Selvy of Furman, Jimmy Walker of Providence and Larry Miller of North Carolina. But the guy who led UConn to the 1999 NCAA championship – the Huskies’ first – and who went on to become an NBA champion and All-Star always was best known as Rip.
Coaches John Beilein, Lon Kruger and Jerry Krause will be inducted, and legends Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams, who were part of the founding class in 2006, will be honored at this year’s ceremony.
Hamilton scored 2,036 points in his three seasons at UConn, including a 21.5 average as both a sophomore and junior. He was a consensus first-team All-American in 1999, when the Huskies finished 34-2, and was a two-time Big East player of the year.
And yet, somehow, Hamilton has been overshadowed through the past three decades by such superstars as Ray Allen and Kemba Walker. Allen is the most accomplished player UConn has produced, with 10 NBA All-Star selections, two NBA titles and more than 24,000 career points. Walker almost singlehandedly delivered the Huskies’ third NCAA title with his tremendous performance in the 2011 tournament.
UConn would not have earned the 1999 title without Hamilton, but it also might not have gotten the three that followed without that team’s NCAA Tournament breakthrough. UConn had become a national power in 1990 but never could make it all the way through to the Final Four. Until Rip.
"Rip Hamilton was so important to us. He really was,” Calhoun told the Hartford Courant in 2015. “That championship opened the floodgates for a lot of good things that have happened at UConn in men's basketball and other places, too. It was such a telling moment for all of us, and he was the star of the team."
Hamilton didn’t make the biggest basket in Connecticut’s 77-74 upset of Duke in that classic 1999 final, but he was the best player on the floor. He scored 27 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and passed for 3 assists while not committing a single turnover and only leaving the floor for 2 minutes. That was a classic Hamilton game: silently perfect.
The rest of the 2022 class of inductees:
John Beilein, head coach. Beilein reached the NCAA championship game twice in his 12 seasons at Michigan. He is one of the few Division I head coaches in recent years never to have served as a college assistant starting at the community college level and then moving to Division III, Division II and eventually to Division I at Canisius. He later advanced to Richmond and West Virginia before accepting his final college job at UM. He won 754 games at the four-year level. Beilein is considered one of the best offensive minds in the game’s history. His 2013 Michigan team ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency, and he had two others that ranked in the top 10 in that category.
Jerry Krause, head coach. Krause became almost as well-known for his role as an administrator with the Gonzaga program as Mark Few was building the Zags into a national power. He finished 20 years as their director of basketball operations in 2015, after first serving as Eastern Washington head coach at winning 262 games at the NAIA, Division II and Division I levels. He served on the NABC Board of Directors and the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee.
Lon Kruger, head coach. At Kansas State, Kruger was a two-time Big Eight player of the year, but his greatest mark was made in coaching. After starting his career at what is now Texas-Rio Grande Valley, he took K-State to the 1988 Elite Eight with Mitch Richmond as his star, got to the 1994 Final Four at Florida and to the 2016 Final Four at Oklahoma. He was head coach at six Division I schools, with a brief tenure with the Atlanta Hawks in between. He is one of three head coaches to take five different schools to the NCAA Tournament and retired from OU with 674 career victories.
Larry Miller, forward. Miller became a consensus All-American, two-time ACC player of the year and leader of the first two Dean Smith teams that reached the NCAA Final Four. Miller played seven years in the ABA.
Frank Selvy, guard. Among many legendary feats performed by the great Wilt Chamberlain was scoring 100 points in an NBA game, but only Selvy has done as a Division I player. He scored 100 for the Furman Paladins against Newberry College in February 1954, the season he averaged 41.7 points per game. Selvy, 89, is a native of Corbin, Ky., who chose Furman after receiving no scholarship offer from Kentucky or Western Kentucky. He finished with a career average of 32.5 points per game for Furman teams that averaged 20 wins and then went on to a nine-year NBA career.
Jimmy Walker, guard. Although Providence has produced such greats as Lenny Wilkens and Ernie DiGregorio, many who follow the program consider Walker the greatest player in the school’s history. He averaged 25.2 points and 5.3 assists over three seasons as the Friars earned three consecutive NCAA bids – not easy to do in the days of a 23-team tournament – and reached the 1965 Elite Eight. He was a two-time consensus first-team All-American.