Following Conference play head coaches for the Mountain West vote on All-Conference teams, coach & players, newcomer, sixth man, freshman, and defensive accolades. Bryce Hamilton’s breakout year and impressive stat line thus far proves he deserves a spot on First-Team All-Conference this season.
Last season, as a freshman, Hamilton earned the Mountain West's Academic All-Conference Award. While he excelled in the classroom, he struggled on the court, only averaging 13.0 minutes, 4.3 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. This was a shock for the Pasadena Star News All-Area Player of the Year, who averaged 24.4 points his senior season and led his team to four League Championships.
Hamilton entered the NCAA Transfer Portal following his first season as a Rebel, but decided to remain in Las Vegas after hearing new Head Coach TJ Otzelberger’s vision and plan for the season to come. Hamilton had a slow start as he adapted to the new head coach’s style of play, but Otzelberger saw his potential and challenged the young guard.
“After that Pacific game we really challenged him,” Coach Otzelberger said. “It’s time to grow up. It’s not time to be a 19-year-old sophomore and learn along the way. We need you and we’re counting on you. We’re going to hold you to a standard, and if you don’t, Bryce probably is the guy out there who has the quickest leash when he’s not playing at the level we demand from him. And I think that has helped him because that accountability has continued to challenge him.”
Hamilton started this season playing average, but as the season progressed, so did his game. He found his rhythm and shots began falling. Fans began to see glimpses of Bryce’s abilities and couldn’t get enough of the competitive lefty.
In early December, Hamilton recorded his first double-double in his career against Fresno State with 21 points and 14 rebounds. The start of conference play brought out a different animal in the southpaw guard. To kick-off the New Year, Hamilton went nine for eleven from the field, scoring 20 points, and leading the Rebels to a big win over Utah State, 70-53. From then on, the left-hand heavy guard has been unstoppable, remaining in double-digit scoring ever since.
“Oh my goodness,” Coleman said. “Something woke him up because he has been playing phenomenal. Right now, in my opinion, he’s playing like the best guard in the Mountain West.”
Against the defending Mountain West Champion and preseason favorite the New Mexico Aggies, Hamilton scored a game-high 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting in just 22 minutes. Hamilton was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week and the Outstanding Rebel of the Week in early January after averaging 17.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while coming off the bench and playing limited minutes that week. The sophomore guard recorded the second double-double of his career with game-highs of 29 points and 10 rebounds against No. 4 San Diego State in late January.
Hamilton scored 35 points, ranked No.2 in the Mountain West Conference for individual game highs this season, against New Mexico. The 35 point performance is not only a career-high, but also more points in a game than any other Runnin' Rebel in the last four seasons.
“I’m just always staying aggressive,” Hamilton said. “The coaches want me to stay aggressive, and also my teammates. They look for me in the right positions and I just make the play.”
Hamilton is ranked No.3 is field goal percentage for the Mountain West Conference at .466 for the season, and is on his way to making top 10 in scoring in the conference with significantly fewer minutes than those ahead of him.
“I think Bryce has an ability to be a really elite player in this league,” Otzelberger said.
The list of statistics could go on and on. His points-per-game average rises with every match-up and so does his confidence. Instead of waiting for opportunities to score, the southpaw guard creates his own. Hamilton’s aggressive mindset proves he is a fierce competitor, and with two more years to go, his potential is unlimited. Hamilton’s game strongly suggests he deserves a spot on First-Team All-Conference without a doubt.