Not long ago, Tyler Hammond '10 dreamed of being in the National Basketball Association.
His dream has now come true. Not in the way he imagined, but as they say, God works in mysterious ways.
Hammond has been hired as a Youth Basketball Coordinator for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Saint Ignatius fans are sure to remember the name Tyler Hammond. The Clevelander excelled for the Basketball Cats in an outstanding career. Hammond played a big role as a star guard during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. An athletic and skilled player, Hammond helped the Wildcats achieve an 18-5 mark during his junior campaign and a 19-5 mark in his senior season.
The combination of Hammond and Tom Parker '10 formed arguably one of the best backcourts in recent school history.
"Tyler was so reliable. He was a one-man press breaker," said Parker, now the Wildcats' JV basketball coach. "It was fun playing with him. He kept the game exciting. He was a lefty, and I was righty, so we had good balance. He made the game easy for us as a point guard. He put people in the right spots. We played a run and jump trap, and we didn't need to talk much because we were so in sync."
However, in the midst of an impressive career with the Wildcats, Hammond did not have any Division I offers. As he jokes now, a 5'9" point guard is not in demand in D1. But then, Hammond sat dejected in the Athletic Department.
"Mr. Fitzpatrick said, 'Don't ever look at Division III as not good basketball. You can play good basketball and get a good education. It's not always about the full ride,'" Hammond recounted. "I didn't fully understand at the time. I wanted to be a big Division 1 athlete."
But Hammond did look at all of his options, and decided to attend Marietta College. As he discovered, you can play good basketball and get a good education at a D3 school.
The decision immediately paid dividends. Hammond thrived in his freshman season with the Pioneers, averaging 11.1 points per game and starting all 31 games. He was voted as D3hoops.com Great Lakes Region Rookie of the Year and Third Team All-Great Lakes Region. Hammond continued to excel in the next three seasons, leading the team in assists in three of his four seasons. As Marietta mentioned in an article about the 2014 alum, Hammond "earned a reputation of being a go-to guy." He hit a floating jumper to lead the Pios to a 63-62 win over Wittenberg in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
More importantly, Hammond earned a bachelor's degree in sport management. Basketball opened the door to a wonderful education.
After graduation, Hammond stuck around Marietta as an assistant coach for the 2014-15 season. The Pioneers reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tourney.
Basketball again carried him to new heights, this time in Michigan. Hammond joined the coaching staff at Siena Heights in Adrian, Michigan. While working for the NAIA program, Hammond earned his Master's degree in Organizational Leadership. The Saints later promoted Hammond to Director of Player Development.
In this role, Hammond laid his professional foundations. During the season, he led a lot of workouts and coached. Out of season, he helped with recruiting and managed team camps. He also launched his own business – Ham Hoops. Through this venture, he organized 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 tournaments and camps, led AAU teams, and coached lots of kids.
With 2-3 weeks left in the 2019-20 season, Hammond did what many coaches do during that time of year. He looked at other gigs, including head coach and assistant coach jobs.
Then, he found the Memphis Grizzlies opening as Youth Basketball Coordinator.
"Right away, I said, 'This has Tyler Hammond written all over it.' I'd get to engage kids and run camps, all while still being involved with basketball," Hammond explained.
Borrowing a phrase common today, you have to 'Shoot your shot,' and that's what Hammond did. He applied, sending in his résumé. The Grizzlies reached out, Hammond interviewed, and got the job.
Hammond became the first person to have the job, and just the second person from the Grizzlies to be involved in youth hoops after the organization began youth programming about three years ago.
The goal of the job is to create lifelong Grizzlies fans while engaging kids. The team is a relative newbie, as the Grizzlies joined the NBA just 20 years ago. So, the team wants to expand its reach into the community, running camps and clinics. The club recently launched the Junior Grizzlies program, partnering with youth basketball programs around the area. And the area is large, as Hammond explains. It's a 150-mile radius that contains bordering states, including Arkansas and Mississippi.
"Our goal is to partner with teams, leagues, programs," Hammond said. "We provide teams and kids with jerseys, basketballs, and other perks. The goal is fan engagement and to make lifelong Grizzlies fans. As the only pro team in town, we're trying to get youth community engagement and build the fanbase. We want to help the kids stay out of trouble. The team does a lot for the community with its foundation, too."
Hammond has big ambitions, but much of his work is on hold with the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak. Hammond arrived in Memphis on the job just days after the NBA shutdown the 2019-20 season. He's spent about five minutes in his new office, enough to grab a team computer, and that's about it.
In the meantime, Hammond has done a lot of research on the Junior Grizzlies program, learning who the program has and hasn't partnered with. Hammond is also working on camp schedules, in case the pandemic does subside enough by summertime.
But once he does start, he's sure to be a success. Just ask his former teammate.
"He's dependable and reliable. He'll get the job done," Parker said. "He's a fun, loving person, and very genuine. His spirit is amazing, he's easy to be around. If you're down, he'll bring you up. His energy is contagious and uplifting. He loves the game and loves teaching the game. We need more people like him in youth sports. He's not about money or notoriety. He's so passionate about helping others, particularly kids. It's taken him to where he is now. And this is just the beginning."
His teachers and coaches have always known that Hammond had a bright future. No one is surprised at his success.
"He's a great young man. It doesn't surprise me at all that the Grizzlies chose him," said Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick '88. "I couldn't be any happier for him. I can't say enough good things about Tyler and the way he treats others. He's a super kind person. He's everything you'd want in a graduate of Saint Ignatius. He'll do nothing but great things in Memphis. I'm so happy for him."
As for Tyler, he's excited to be in the new role and build something special in Memphis.
As he does, he'll be keeping his Jesuit values in mind.
"The Men for Others mentality drives me. Helping others and doing things for others motivates me," Hammond said. "At Saint Ignatius, I learned to see the good in everyone, particularly through the Summer Enrichment Program and Sophomore Service. Being a mentor and helping kids who look up to you is so important.
"Saint Ignatius helped to mold who I am, both in the four years as a student and the two years previous being part of the Magis program. That helped me to be the man I am today, getting me into college, and from there, college helped me to be good at basketball and a good basketball coach. That laid the foundation for me today."
With Hammond in Memphis, you can bet that plenty of folks at Wildcat High will be rooting for Tyler and the Grizzlies now.