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A Man on a Mission: Rasheed Hammond Aims to Raise Basketball’s Profile in Jamaica

Three people are responsible for Rasheed Hammond’s deep interest in basketball; his older brother-an avid basketball player and fan, his father-legendary Jamaican reggae singer Beres Hammond, and Allen Iverson former American professional basketball player.

At 4 years old, Hammond was already trying to shoot hoops after watching his brother and friends play on the court their dad had built for them in their yard. At 6 years old, he was already part of a structured basketball programme at the Hillel Academy and credits his coach Nicholas Locke for teaching him the game. By the time he was ready to move on to high school, Ardenne High School’s dominance in the sport made it a sure choice for him.

“As soon as I got there before I even meet the teachers, I was trying to meet the basketball coach. Even in the orientation, the only thing on my mind was basketball; where can I find the coach, where can I find the court, how can I get a basketball. I just wanted to play basketball- that was my main aim,” he said.

The very athletic shooting guard made the team and throughout his high school basketball journey copped many individual awards. But his most memorable award was given during his final year at the institution.

Top Three-Point Shooter

“I won the top three-point shooter in my age group, we didn’t get very far in the competition,” he said. “It was the very first game of the season, and we were playing against St Andrew Technical High School, the team that actually went to the final against Hydel. But we were down by 20 points going into the third quarter and then I went off and I scored like 30 points-they couldn’t stop me. I was like the catalyst for the comeback.”

Rasheed Hammond-the catalyst of the comeback

His team ended up winning by two points, and his performance in that game boosted his confidence and set the tone for him for the rest of the season. Although they did not make it to the finals, that award was a big win for his credence in his talent.

“There were so many great shooters in that year and I still managed to get that award so that speaks volumes to me,” he said.

Hammond also played division one basketball while in high for the Sky Legends. After graduating from Ardenne High, he continued playing for the Sky Legends and also played for the August Town, Grants Pen, Duhaney Park, and St. George’s Saints basketball teams.

In 2014 he enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and was enthusiastic to join the basketball team. But it was while at university that he said his perspective on basketball changed.

“That’s when my athletic side kinda went down a little bit of a slope because college ball is different. Overseas the NCAA College ball is seen as that level that matriculates you into the pros, whereas out here I think because we don’t have much of a pro league or a league that’s taken seriously, college ball was really just a show so people didn’t really take it seriously,” he said.

“That’s where I actually started putting on weight, and because of the weight gain, I had to change my game. My body started changing, I was a little bit slower so that’s where I had to work on my jump shot more, and I think that’s what turn me into the shooter I am today.”

Even though he had managed to rework his shooting skills, Hammond said he wasn’t getting much game time with the university’s team. However, he was playing in the National Basketball League for the Selassie Gardens and Upper Room basketball teams. And more often than not, he was the top ball-handler on these teams.

It was while at the UWI too, that he decided to tune in more to his musical side.

“The music side started just creep into me and the reality of maybe you just can’t run from it. So from that point, it was just music and basketball for me. Ask anyone, if you can’t find me in the studio, I was on a basketball court somewhere,” he said.

Hammond now works as an administrator in his father’s entertainment company but is still chasing his basketball dreams.

The 27-year-old is now a part of P.H.A.S.E.1 Academy’s men’s pro team, and he notes that he has already seen great improvements in his skills and his approach to the game since joining.

Rasheed Hammond says his IQ and fitness level have improved since joining P.H.A.S.E.1 Academy’s Pro Team

“First thing for me was IQ, it has definitely improved. I understand the game on a different level because in Jamaica we are well loaded with athletic and gifted players but I feel like IQ and understanding of the game are not really there. And for me, this is my first time in a structured professional setting and I’ve learned a lot,” he said.

He added; “My fitness level has definitely improved, and once you trained consistently your shot will get better, your skills will get sharper so I’ve seen a lot of significant improvements physically.”

And although he is very cognizant of the opportunities available by being a part of the team, for now, Hammond is focused on doing what he can to raise the sport’s profile in Jamaica.

“My goal for basketball has always been bigger than just me. I’ve always wanted to see basketball be a sought-after sport in Jamaica."

There are players who are better than me and do a lot of things better than me and I’m okay with that. But I’ve always wanted that to be showcased to everyone because we really do have a talented group of players out there, not only seniors but young kids,” he said.

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