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Decision on Jordan Hamilton could greatly affect playoffs

The forward from Compton Dominguez is seeking a fifth year of eligibility. He averaged nearly 28 points a game last season and his presence could make the Dons a serious challenger to Mater Dei.

February 16, 2009|ERIC SONDHEIMER | ON HIGH SCHOOLS

In the next week, 6-foot-7 forward Jordan Hamilton of Compton Dominguez will finally learn whether his high school career is really over.

All season, he has been trying to gain a fifth year of athletic eligibility, but the Southern Section has refused to grant him a hardship waiver.

Now it's in the hands of Marie Ishida, the executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, who promises to make a final decision no later than Feb. 24.

That means in the middle of the Southern Section basketball playoffs that begin Wednesday, Hamilton could be back on the court or left to ponder what went wrong in his last year of high school.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, February 19, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
High school basketball: Eric Sondheimer's column in Monday's Sports section said that the City Section Division I boys' basketball championship is March 7 at USC's Galen Center. It is March 6.

"Hope is still alive," Dominguez Coach Duane Cooper said.

There's reason to be sympathetic to Hamilton's plight. Only last year, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His family contends that his medical condition combined with a failure by those in charge of his education to identify his learning disability resulted in his struggling in the classroom. At one point, between seventh and ninth grade, Hamilton received 22 Fs.

His attorney, Sandy Fox, presented evidence that Hamilton suffered a "hardship" because of the seriousness of his medical condition and the fact his schools failed to "address and provide him accommodations."

Southern Section Commissioner Jim Staunton disagreed, saying he didn't see the medical condition "as a severe handicap" that prevented him from being able to learn. A three-person appeals panel unanimously upheld Staunton's decision.

But even if Ishida overturns Staunton, the Southern Section has another concern about Hamilton, alleging that when he transferred two years ago from Los Angeles Dorsey to Dominguez, his family maintained a dual residency, a violation of section rules.

So Hamilton's chances of becoming eligible in time to help Dominguez this season remain uncertain.

What an impact he'd make if he were eligible. He averaged 27.6 points and 11.1 rebounds last season when Dominguez handed Santa Ana Mater Dei its only loss in the I-AA championship game. Mater Dei is unbeaten again, and Hamilton could be the only obstacle standing in the way of the Monarchs (26-0), who received the No. 1 playoff seeding Sunday.

Regardless of what happens, the good news about Hamilton is that since he has started taking medication, his life has changed and he is making progress toward being able to accept a basketball scholarship to Texas.

According to the transcript from his appeals hearing in December, Hamilton testified: "Right after I started taking medication, I felt a lot better. I passed my exit exam, I did good on tests, I did good on my school work, and I feel more confident now."

And he added, "You know, in reading, I can actually read a whole book."

His attorney pleaded, "His diagnosis screamed for an intervention, and that intervention didn't take place, so this kid was drowning."

The best news is that Hamilton now feels he can read an entire book. One day, he'll learn that will become more important than basketball.

Westchester is a cinch

Unless Coach Ed Azzam heads for Tibet for a two-week vacation, Westchester is a cinch to reach the City Section Division I final on March 7 at USC's Galen Center.

The top-seeded Comets (26-2) have little competition until the championship game, when they will probably face the winner of the semifinal game between Woodland Hills Taft and Los Angeles Fairfax.

I've never seen Azzam more enthusiastic about a team than this one. He truly likes the players, their personalities, their work ethic.

Beware of sophomore trio

Murrieta Valley (24-1) received the No. 1 seeding for Southern Section Division I-A, but watch out for No. 3 Corona Centennial (23-3).

The Huskies' three sophomore standouts -- Gelaun Wheelwright (17.9 scoring average), Dominique Dunning (17.0) and Michael Caffey (13.5) -- are good enough and poised enough to lead their team to a championship.

--

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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