TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s head basketball coach Leonard Hamilton, who starred at Gaston College during his playing career, will be inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame on June 8, 2023. Hamilton began his collegiate basketball career as a student-athlete at Gaston College, where he was a standout member of the men’s basketball team from 1966-68.
Hamilton will be honored along with College Basketball Hall of Fame member Nolan Richardson (Eastern Arizona Junior College), track star Brittany Reese (Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College), Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett (Triton (Ill.) College), and former U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team Head Coach Bruce Arena (Nassau Community College).
“I’ve been very fortunate as both a player and a coach during my career,” said Hamilton. “I began my career as a player at Gaston Community College, and I owe a lot to that school. Gaston College is where my roots as a college basketball player and coach began. Beginning my career there helped me understand the discipline it was going to take if I wanted to make a life for myself and my family in the sport of college basketball. My time at Gaston College prepared me to take the next steps in my life. My career there allowed me to gain the perspective, and see what heights, I could possibly reach in my career.
Hamilton has been recognized throughout his career and has been previously inducted into six athletic Halls of Fame: The University of Tennessee at Martin (1983), Austin Peay State University (2000) University of Miami (2006), the Gaston County Hall of Fame (2007), the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (2013), Florida State University (2021) and the NJCAA (2023). He was named as an Alumnus of Distinction by Gaston College (2015).
Hamilton was presented with the Joe Lapchick Character Award in 2022. The Lapchick Foundation has honored many of the most respected names in college basketball since 2008.
Hamilton played at Gaston College, where he set a school record by scoring 54 points in a game, and later at the University of Tennessee-Martin. He earned his Associates Degree from Gaston in 1968, his Bachelor’s Degree in physical education from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1971 and his Master’s Degree in Physical and Health Education from Austin Peay State University in 1973.
Hamilton, the winningest coach in the history of Florida State men’s basketball and the fifth all-time winningest coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history, has been a college head coach for 33 years. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Austin Peay State University and at the University of Kentucky. He began his head coaching career at Oklahoma State and later coached at the University of Miami, for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, and at Florida State.
A native of Gastonia, N.C. Hamilton played baseball, basketball and football at the city’s old all-African-American Highland High School. He then became one of the first two African-American athletes in Gaston College history when he played for the school in the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons. He also helped Gaston College advance to its first NJCAA national tournament competition when it participated in the 1968 NJCAA Region 10 playoffs.
Hamilton scored 971 points in his two-year career at Gaston College, highlighted by a single-game, school-record 54-point effort during his senior season.
After a standout two-year career at UT-Martin from 1969 to 1971, Hamilton began his coaching career.
He’s the first Florida State coach to guide the school to nine consecutive postseason appearances, and his 2012 ACC tournament championship was the first in school history and the first for an African-American coach in ACC history. In 2020, his team won Florida State’s first ACC regular season championship.
Hamilton has won UPI National Coach of the Year (1995), Big East Coach of the Year (1995, 1999), ACC Coach of the Year (2009, 2012, 2020) and the prestigious Ben Jobe Award (2021). The only coach to be named coach of the year in both the Big East and ACC, Hamilton’s teams have made the Sweet 16 four times and the Elite Eight once.
The NJCAA Hall of Fame seeks to honor individuals who have paved the way for opportunities at the two-year level – athletically and professionally – and those who have been pioneers throughout the history of the association.
Inductees to the NJCAA Hall of Fame include administrators, coaches, student-athletes and meritorious contributors and influencers.