Julian Hammond III taking charge of shared point guard role for CU Buffs
Last summer, the Colorado men’s basketball team welcomed a recruiting class to campus recognized, rankings-wise, as the top incoming unit in program history.
It was a checkered first season for the group as two of those players, two guard Javon Ruffin (knee) and small forward Quincy Allen (hip) took redshirt years after suffering season-ending injuries. The post player of the class, 7-foot-1 Lawson Lovering, missed the last half of the season due to a knee injury.
But the other two players from that class, Julian Hammond III and KJ Simpson, showed the point guard spot should be in good hands at CU for seasons to come.
Head coach Tad Boyle has received plenty of reinforcements since the season ended in March in the first round of the NIT, adding help along the wing through the transfer portal (J’Vonne Hadley, Jalen Gabbidon, Ethan Wright) and with 2022 freshman RJ Smith. The Buffs also added talented 6-foot-11 freshman Joe Hurlburt up front.
What Boyle did not add with the five spots available this spring was another point guard, a role that will be in the hands of Hammond and Simpson. That duo may not know what the Pac-12 will look like, or even if the Buffs will remain part of the league, when their CU careers are scheduled to end. Regardless, they know the keys to CU’s attack will be their shared responsibility.
“I feel like we’re both excited, and we both feel like our games can go good together at the same time,” Hammond said. “I feel like we’ll be exciting to watch.”
Both guards endured typical freshman season ups-and-downs as rookies, with Simpson perhaps showcasing a more dynamic scoring ability. But Hammond, the former two-sport standout from Cherry Creek, was a steadying presence who Boyle turned to for a starting role down the stretch. After spending most of his summers during high school preparing for football, Hammond believes he is making significant strides with the luxury of focusing solely on basketball for the past year.
“I thought it was just a big transition at first, from the speed and the pace of the game. The size and all that,” Hammond said. “Everything was just different at first. But I feel like as the season went on, I adjusted and I felt more comfortable. I feel like I’ve been getting better since I’ve been here because I don’t have to take those five, six months off just to play football. I (used to) go in and get shots but not really have competition, especially over football season. It’s nice to be just playing one sport.”
Simpson averaged about nine more minutes per game than Hammond and led the Buffs in assists, but Hammond’s assist-to-turnover rate (1.19) was similar to Simpson’s final tally (1.25). And while Simpson displayed an ability to score at the rim, Hammond was the superior shooter as a rookie, shooting .351 overall and .415 on 3-pointers (17-for-41). Simpson shot .377 overall but struggled to a .254 mark from the arc (17-for-67). In significantly fewer minutes, Hammond knocked down the same number of 3-pointers as Simpson in 26 less attempts.
“Obviously as a point guard you’ve got to handle pressure, but I just have to keep on shooting the ball and get a better mid-range game,” Hammond said. “We’ve got a couple guys coming back from injury. We’ve got some guys coming in from other schools. I feel like we’re going to be a different team, newer, but we’re very confident in our abilities.”