East Hall’s Josh Hampton was ready for the challenge his coach, Joe Dix, threw his way when the basketball season started. Dix was probing to see what kind of leadership his senior point guard Hampton would provide for the Vikings, a program accustomed to competing for state titles.
“The start of the season, I really mentally tried to challenge him to see what kind of leader he would be,” Dix said. “He said he was ready and his response to me was ‘you’ll see.’”
By the time the season was finished, Hampton, a three-year starter for East Hall, strung together a season on or near the same level as some of the greats to come through the school like Chezley Watson, Antoine Whelchel, Walter Hill, Frank Davis and Mark Causey.
“Coach Dix said having me as the leader of the team could go really good or bad,” Hampton said. “I think it was a good thing that he challenged me like that.
“It showed he had faith in my ability.”
This season, Hampton averaged 27.6 points per game, 3.7 steals, 3.5 assists and led East Hall to the second round in the Class AA state tournament.
For his efforts, Hampton is The Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year. During the season, Hampton earned MVP honors in the Alaska Airlines Classic in January, was tabbed as the Region 8-AA Player of the Year and was twice named The Times’ Athlete of the Week.
“J.C. had an outstanding senior season,” Dix said. “He provided great leadership and really put the team on his back.”
Hampton, a Lipscomb
University signee, knew going into his senior season that he was going to have to shoulder the responsibility of being a leader, which was entirely new. Even though he played varsity for four years, Hampton was in the shadows of others like Kymon Woods and Dre Perry before blossoming into the team’s go-to guy.
Once his senior season started, Hampton hit the ground running and never looked back. He shot out of the gates with a 35-point effort against Eagles Landing. Just two games later, he hit 15 of 21 shots from the floor and scored 39 on Gainesville’s home floor.
“That’s the best night one of our players has ever had in that gym,” said Dix, who just finished his 16th season on East Hall’s coaching staff.
Hampton says the crowning moment of his season was when the team had the opportunity to compete in and take home the title early in January at the Alaska Airlines Classic in Anchorage, Ak. He said the opportunity to see how different cultures live, as well as play against some great basketball competition, was a priceless opportunity.
There was also his senior night experience playing against Gainesville one final time at Valhalla — a moment he’ll never forget. Even though it wasn’t his best night stats wise (22 points), it was a pure adrenaline rush to take the home floor one final time in front of the Vikings’ fans.
“I was just so pumped for that senior night game against Gainesville,” Hampton said. “It meant a lot to me to get to play here at East Hall the past four seasons, and it’s a place I’ll also come back to.
“There’s just so much pride that goes into wearing the East Hall jersey.”
And Hampton left the East Hall faithful with a lasting impression with his 40-point output in the first round of the playoffs at Dade County. It was the first time in Dix’s time at East Hall that a player scored 40 in a road game.
“After the game, I remember thinking I may have scored about 30, or so,” Hampton said. “And then people started coming up and congratulating me on scoring 40.
“I really had no idea I’d done that until then.”
Dix knew even before Hampton stepped foot into the varsity program in the 2008-2009 season that he had potential to be special. That inclination was confirmed when Hampton, still in middle school, went on a trip with the varsity program to a summer camp. According to Dix, the second game out, Hampton scored 30 against the junior varsity squad from Parkview.
Dix could tell then that the then-undersized Hampton had great potential due to his dribbling skills and ability to run a complex offense.
“I was probably the weakest and smallest kid on the floor back then, but I knew I wanted to do well,” said Hampton, who roomed with Hill on that trip.
Hampton is no longer that frail kid that was a competitive junkie. He’s grown into a 6-foot-1 guard with tremendous shooting ability from all distances. He was originally courted by Lipscomb while playing with the Gainesville Wildcats summer league team after his sophomore year, and the coaches continued contact from there forward.
“J.C. is the kind of player that rarely makes a bone-headed mistake on the floor,” Dix said. “If he keeps it up, I could easily see him becoming an All-Conference player in college.”
And where does he rank in players to come through East Hall’s program?
“He’s got to be one of the 10 best to ever play at East Hall,” Dix added.