Jairus Hamilton knows how to get a crowd on its feet.
At 6-8, 230 pounds, he plays almost every position for Cannon School in Concord. The four-star recruit in the class of 2018, is being recruited by many of the top programs in the country, including UNC, Duke, N.C. State, Arizona and Louisville.
He also provided probably the biggest dunk of the John Wall Invitational late Thursday night in Cannon’s 72-64 loss to Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.) in the T.J. Warren bracket semifinals.
If you don’t know Hillcrest, one of the top prep schools in the nation, it features the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2017, DeAndre Ayton.
Never miss a local story.
But Hamilton cut back door on a defender and jumped high in the air. His teammate threw the ball up for him. A Hillcrest player was late in trying to challenge the dunk, and found himself on the other side of a poster. When Hamilton caught the alley-hoop from his teammate he slammed it in the basket.
A foul was called, and when Hamilton dropped down from the basket, he stared down the defender. The crowd went wild.
Ayton, a 7-foot center, who was not near the play at the time talked about the dunk with amazement.
“He’s a beast,” Ayton said of Hamilton. “And a junior? Stuff like that you just have to watch out for. Today he shut down the gym as well, and you just got to throw something back. You get a dunk, I get a dunk.”
“He had the biggest dunk of the year to me.”
He said his stare was even meaner.
“Oh my goodness,” Ayton said. “I thought I got dunked on.”
That wasn’t his only highlight of Hamilton’s tournament, though. On Wednesday, he hit a game-winning layup in the final few seconds to help Cannon advance to the semifinals.
Cannon coach Ché Ross said Hamilton doesn’t have a ceiling.
“He’s always in the gym,” Ross said. “He’s exceptionally competitive. He’s very coachable and he’s his own worse critic. So my job is a lot easier when you have your best player who wants to take on the biggest challenges. Nine times out of 10, he’s guarding the other team’s best player or biggest player.”
Hamilton has done his best work in front of many ACC coaches. Among those at the John Wall Invitational at Broughton’s Holliday gym on Thursday night were Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel, UNC head coach Roy Williams, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried and Wake Forest assistant coach Steve Woodberry.
Hamilton has visited UNC and Duke, but has not yet visited N.C. State.
He said UNC is pushing the hardest of all of the schools.
“They really stress me as a priority in their recruiting class, so it’s just something nice to have,” he said. “But really all the schools are pushing hard for me. I get at least two phone calls a day from different schools.”
Hamilton said he’s not yet ready to make a decision. He anticipates narrowing his choices before his senior season and after he makes some official visits.
“I’m really just looking for a place I can come in, I can contribute immediately and play my role in the system,” Hamilton said. “And just hopefully be a really good team and increase my stock.”