Kentucky is a basketball state. The Bluegrass is steeped in hoops lore, from high school to the college level. The Kentucky Wildcats are the most successful basketball program in college basketball and the Louisville Cardinals are a top 10 program historically, and even Western Kentucky University’s men’s basketball program is approaching 2,000 all time wins.
If you’re from Richmond, EKU basketball has always been a nice local team to support, regardless of who else you may be a fan of. Myself, I have been going to EKU basketball games since 2010 and have always had a blast, but I’ve also walked out of Baptist Health Arena disappointed many times growing up. A few that come to mind are a loss to UT Martin in the CIT back in 2015 and some losses to Belmont and Murray State back in the OVC days. The Colonels, for the most part, could never get over the hump. Once in 2014, a strong EKU team almost beat Kansas in the NCAA tournament with some of my favorite Colonels of all time like Eric Stutz, Glenn Cosey, Corey Walden, Marcus Lewis and Deverin Muff.
While those players made EKU Basketball memorable, Colonel basketball was a fun but average experience from a fan’s perspective. Sure, Nick Mayo was must see basketball in the following years, but EKU Basketball still was average as a product.
Those days are long gone.
The brand of EKU Basketball is as good as it has ever been and it’s set to become even better in the near future. We can all thank A.W Hamilton for that.
Not only is Hamilton a stellar coach, but he’s a great ambassador for his program. Whether you run into him on the rec center track getting his daily steps in or see him courtside in Baptist Health Arena, the man has transformed EKU Basketball forever.
The Most Exciting 40 Minutes In Sports and 40 Tough are team mottos that have helped the brand of EKU basketball grow. A college basketball team that has its own motto is cool, but having hundreds of students on campus wear t-shirts with that same logo show that more people are starting to see what A.W is building with his team. It’s no wonder EKU led the ASUN in home attendance this past season.
In the last month or so, the excitement for Colonel basketball has skyrocketed, with a team that ran through tough game after tough game in the CBI postseason tournament which featured four games in four days with four overtime sessions, all won by EKU. The championship game featured a 20-point comeback by the Colonels with 11 minutes to go and a shot that was inches from sending EKU into another overtime session. While the loss was heartbreaking, it was only a minor setback for a healthy team that looks to bring back almost everybody from their active roster.
In the college game nowadays, players transferring and going elsewhere is commonplace, but not at Eastern. The entire Colonels team from the exciting CBI run are coming back minus two seniors. Add in some top freshman and you potentially have one of the best teams ever assembled in Richmond. This is the new standard for A.W. Hamilton’s teams. Winning is expected and so is a good product on the hardwood which fans want to be a part of.
When Selection Sunday rolls around in next spring, do not be surprised to see EKU getting an automatic bid after winning the ASUN. What happens next is up to the Colonels, but one thing is for sure — A.W has reinvented EKU Basketball for this era.