With the 2016-17 season approaching, Jeff Hamilton will begin his 15th year as the head men's basketball coach as well as his eighth season as the Athletic Director for the Shawnee State University Athletic Department. As the Athletic Director, the Bears have sent seven of their 13 varsity programs to compete at the NAIA Championships under Hamilton’s tenure.
As a member of the NAIA’s Champions of Character Initiative, 17 different individuals have been named the Mid-South Conference's Champions of Character recipients in their respective sports. For Hamilton’s squad, the men’s basketball team has had an individual win this honor in each of the first five seasons that the Bears have been a member of the Mid-South Conference, as Austin Vance would become the last recipent of the award for the men's basketball program.
As an athletic department, Shawnee State is recognized as a Five-Star Institution for Champions of Character. During the 2011-12 year, the Bears' Champions of Character score was the highest amongst all Mid-South schools and the sixth-highest amongst all schools in the NAIA.
In total, Hamilton has coached 29 players to all-conference honors. The Bears are just three years removed from their most successful campaign since the 2006-07 season when they also won 16 games. Their 11 conference wins during the 2012-13 season also tied for the most since the 2003-04 season under Hamilton.
Throughout his coaching career, Hamilton has consistently scheduled a tough non-conference slate to prepare his team for the conference schedule. During his tenure, the Bears have played the likes of Boston College, Florida State University, Texas Christian University, University of Detroit-Mercy and many other Division I opponents.
Hamilton’s teams have continually risen to the challenge of playing top competition throughout the country. During the 2014-15 season, the Bears took down the then-No. 1-ranked team in the NAIA, Campbellsville University in a thrilling 63-61 victory for the Bears at Frank & Janis Waller Gymnasium on Jan. 24 of the calendar year.
Last year's victory over Campbellsville continues Shawnee State’s history of playing its best on the biggest stages as the Bears obtained victories over No. 10-ranked Lindsey Wilson and West Virginia Institute of Technology - who was receiving votes in the NAIA Poll - in 2013-14 and took three games against teams that were ranked in the top-25 at the time during the 2012-13 season. Additionally, the Bears notched an overtime win over Georgetown College, who was receiving votes at the time before going on to win the NAIA National Championship later that season. In the 2011-12 season, the Bears upset then-No. 1 Pikeville when Pikeville was the reigning NAIA Champion coming into that season.
In 2004-05, the Bears knocked off eventual National Champion Walsh twice during the regular season. In the 2008-09 season, Hamilton and the Bears went into then-No. 1 ranked Cedarville and took down the Yellow Jackets on their home floor. With a young squad during the 2010-11 season, his team made national headlines as it knocked off second-ranked Georgetown College, with then-sophomore Tyler Morgan garnering National Player of the Week honors.
Hamilton also accumulated a good amount of success with his team's guard play in the 2014-15 season, as current SSU hooper Devon Carter hit on over 90 percent of his free throw attempts in 2015. Carter and fellow teammate Sean Elliott also finished in the top 25 in program history for three-point shooting percentage in a season, as Carter hit on 39.7 percent of his attempts while Elliott accumulated a 43 percent accuracy rate from downtown en route to Second-Team All-MSC honors.
The 2015-16 season saw Hamilton's team continue to improve with a 15-15 record. The Bears knocked off #1 Georgetown at home on January 7th, 91-71. SSU would also sweep Cumberlands on the season, winning 67-65 in Williamsburg on January 21st, then defeating the Patriots at home 72-65 on February 4th. Cumberlands were receiving votes in the national poll before both games. Shawnee State would finish the season tied for fourth in the conference after being picked eighth in the preseason poll, and for his efforts Hamilton was named the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year.
Hamilton joined the SSU staff in the summer of 2001 as an assistant coach under Geno Ford. He took over the program the following year and guided the Bears to a 22-10 record and to the AMC Championship Game. Hamilton has been coaching basketball since his graduation in 1996 from the College of Wooster. He has made coaching stops at Illinois College and Ohio University where he was on Larry Hunter's staff for two seasons.
Hamilton has been instrumental in transitioning Shawnee State into the Mid-South Conference and into the Division I ranks at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year. The upcoming season will be the Bears’ sixth season as a member of the Mid-South Conference competing at the NAIA Division I level. At various times along the way, he has also coached golf, soccer, tennis and served as director of intramurals.
The Worthington, Ohio native holds a bachelor's degree from the College of Wooster and a master's degree from Ohio University. As a point guard at Wooster, Hamilton helped guide the Scots to three national tournament appearances and a 91-21 record. He currently resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Rhonda. They have two children, Luke and Margaret.
Entering his third season as an assistant coach for the Shawnee State men’s basketball team, Delano Thomas brings a wealth of basketball experience, not only as a coach, but also as one of the most prolific players in Shawnee State history.
Thomas played for the Bears from 2002-2004, and ranks among the top of several categories in the program. A First Team NAIA All-American during the 2003-04 campaign and AMC Player of the Year recepient, Thomas ranks first in the program in blocked shots (148), first in rebounds per game average (11.5), 14th in scoring average per game (13.6) and 14th in assists per game (2.1).
A Columbus, Ohio, native, Thomas propelled his successful college campaign into a professional career spanning nine years and six countries across South America, Asia and Europe. In 2008-09, he was part of a Norwegian squad that won the BLNO Championship in Norway’s top professional basketball league. Thomas has also spent seasons in Portugal, Syria, Brazil, Uruguay and Germany.
During his time overseas, Thomas also gained valuable coaching experience. In 2007, he was the head coach of Montevideo High School in Uruguay where he led the squad to a 22-10 record. The following year, he was the head coach of Ulriken Elite in Norway for the U21, U18, and U14 boys, as well as the U14 girls’ squad.
From 2012-14, Thomas was the head coach for the U15 boys and girls of Ulriken Ung., in Norway. During his time there, he led the girls’ squad to a second place finish in the Bergen Region and a silver medal in the Hansa Cup. The boys side finished as the bronze medalists.
Thomas also has a plethora of work experience across the globe under the basketball umbrella. In 2010, he worked for the After-School All-Stars as the Administer of Sports Development in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was responsible for using athletics to relate to everyday life-skills. In 2014, he was the Activity Consultant for the Norges Basketballforbund in Oslo, Norway. Here, Thomas was tasked with recruiting young athletes from schools, organizing clinics and educating new coaches with practice plans.
In his first season with the Bears, Thomas' work with the big men at SSU has already paid dividends. Nick Tingle recorded 28 blocks on the season and recorded a .546 field goal percentage, with the latter stat ranking 12th for a Shawnee State player in a single season. Jacob Daniels also benefitted from Thomas' tutelage, as the junior presently sits ninth all-time in offensive rebounding average in the program's history.
Thomas also utilized his defensive knowledge of the game to push the 2014-15 team to greater heights defensively, as Shawnee State set single-season records for defensive rebounds (948), scoring defense (57.6), defensive field goal percentage (.373), and defensive three-point field goal percentage (.279) last season.
Thomas attended high school at Beechcroft High School in Columbus, and attended Clark State Community College for two years before concluding his final two years of college basketball at Shawnee State. He holds an Associate’s Degree from SSU, and is currently working to finish his Bachelor’s Degree in Individualized Studies.