A parade of inspiring people have touched Husky radio analyst Jason Hamilton throughout his life: His high school sweetheart, now wife, Michelle; his children; parents Patricia and Larry Hamilton; a myriad of basketball coaches; and the play-by-play voice of the Huskies, Bob Rondeau.
Hamilton has had his fair share of ups and downs — and he wasn’t always a member of the purple and gold.
Now in his 10th year as a radio analyst for the University of Washington men’s basketball team, Hamilton said his decision not to start his college career as a Husky is the only one he wholeheartedly regrets.
After graduating from Hazen, he accepted a basketball scholarship from San Diego State and went on to win the West Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Award. Hamilton admits he always wanted to play at the University of Washington, but would sit on the bench under Coach Lynn Nance. He wanted to play the game he fell in love with and San Diego State was willing to let him play.
A coaching change at UW gave Hamilton a second chance to pursue his passion and don the purple and gold.
Incoming coach Bob Bender hired assistant coach Ritchie McKay, a recruiter from Bradley who knew all about Hamilton’s abilities. Hamilton’s mind was all but made up to switch to Washington. He was later talked out of leaving by San Diego State coach Tony Fuller, who visited Hamilton in Renton.
But Hamilton remained for seven more games. He believed his opportunity to play for the UW had arrived and he chose to seize it. Under NCAA rules, transfers must sit out an entire year.
“I regret I was not able to transfer during the summer,” he said.
When Hamilton returned to the basketball court his junior year — this time at the UW — he never lost step. He set team and player records that still stand today, and was named to the All Pac-10 Newcomer Team in 1995.
“It was our team that changed how Husky basketball was viewed,” he said. Hamilton and the Huskies went 16-12 his senior year and earned a berth to the National Invitation Tournament, ending the team’s eight-year post-season absence.
Hamilton graduated in 1997 with a double major in political science and communications. He remained with the Huskies basketball program as an assistant coach and worked with the media when Bender was unavailable.
Now enters Bob Rondeau, the Voice of Husky basketball.
“I has always gotten along with Rondeau as a player, as a coach,” he said. While Hamilton pursued a career in coaching, another opportunity presented itself.
“Radio wasn’t the first choice, it was going to television,” Hamilton said of his changing career goals. He was an intern at Prime Sports Northwest (ROOT Sports) and thought he wanted to work as a TV sports commentator.
At this time Rondeau was asked to find a radio partner, and given all the flexibility he needed to choose a new colleague. Rondeau had admired Hamilton as a player in his post-game interviews, and knew he wanted Hamilton to sit by his side.
“It has been amazing to watch his development over the years, for a guy who had never done this before, shy, quiet guy to one of the best analysis in any sport in the state of Washington,” Rondeau said.
In a heartbeat Hamilton decided to continue with the Husky basketball program, but this time instead of being seen on the court, he’d be heard by thousands over the radio waves.
“It’s like sitting next to a coach. I love listening to him. He anticipates things he sees things that I don’t just because of his experience,” Rondeau said of Hamilton. “His understanding of the game is advanced; it’s like being in the huddle during the game.
Hamilton still carrys a tape recording of his first game in his briefcase, and said he’s well aware of how shaky he sounded.
“I don’t know why I keep it in there, I don’t listen to it,” he said. “It’s taken a couple years to learn how to get in and get out during Rondeau’s play-by-play. How much time do I have, the timing and chemistry for the two.”
Broadcasters can’t fake chemistry. It’s either there or it’s not. The listeners are too smart, Hamilton said.
Regardless of how they sound, Rondeau and Hamilton are friends away from the court. They play golf, hanging out with family and spend just as much time together during the basketball season as they do on the off season. That way it’s easier for the two to step up on the court and have a dialog.
For those who wonder what their pre-game prep time looks like, it works like this: The two meet 60 minutes before tip-off. Rondeau hands Hamilton a script of the pre-game with Rondeau’s section complete. Hamilton’s section is blank and he’s got 30 minutes to fill in the blanks.
“Jason excels in translating the game into terms that everyone can understand no matter what level of understanding of basketball they have,” Rondeau said. “He is special, very special.”
Over the airwaves
You can listen to Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton on KJR 950 AM and 102.9 FM and the Washington IMG College Sports Network throughout the Pacific Northwest. You can also go online and for a complete schedule of Husky Men's Basketball click here.
Married to high school sweetheart Michelle Boston in 1997 with two children, a son and daughter.
Full-time work at ULT Wealth Advisors in Kirkland.
Went to Hazelwood, and schools.
Food – when at home steak salad; on the road – it depends on the city.
Color – Blue
Number – 12, his dad played basketball at Bluffton University in Ohio and wore 12.
Activity with family – roller skating at Skate King in Bellevue and watching movies.
NBA team – he doesn’t have one
Idolize – he was lucky to have great people around him his entire life, his parents, sisters, coaches he had early on to professors and business community. Number of people, good people around that care about you and want to see you successful.
Through the years:
1988-1992 (Hazen) – Averaged 19.9 points, 8 rebounds, 5.4 steals his senior year. Honorable Mention All-America status from USA Today. Three-year starter and two-time All-Seamount selection. Earned first-team all-state honors and Seamount League MVP.
1993 (San Diego State) – WAC freshman of the Year for the team that finished below .500. Averaged 8.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. Led the WAC in three-point shooting (50 percent) and steals (2.1 per game).
1994 - He left San Diego State just seven games into the season and had to sit out a full year, include the first two games of the 1995 UW season.
1995 (Washington) – All Pac-10 Newcomer Team; starting point guard with 124 assists. UW school single game record nine steals against Eastern Washington.
1996 – Hamilton led the huskies to a 16-12 record and a National Initiation Tournament berth that stopped UW’s eight-year postseason absence. Fifty-nine steals, 103 assists. Only the third UW players with back-to-back 100 assists season. Led Pac-10 in steals.
1997-1999 – Assistant head coach under Bob Bender where the team returned to the NIT. NCAA berth in 1998 (first since 1986 making it to the Sweet 16)
2002 – First radio broadcast with Bob Rondeau providing play-by-play while Hamilton provides analysis.