GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (BVM) — Considering his family history, it’s not surprising that Cherry Creek High School senior Julian Hammond III fell in love with the game of basketball at an early age and developed into a future Division I college player.
His parents, Julian II and Ruby, met at Loyola Marymount University where they both played basketball, and his grandfather, the original Julian, is a former ABA player.
But basketball didn’t have to be Hammond III’s sport of choice for the next level. The Colorado Buffaloes commit is a two-time first team all-state quarterback and he led the Bruins’ football team to back-to-back undefeated state championships. As a three-star QB prospect, Hammond III also had several Division I football scholarship offers.
“Julian is a tremendous athlete,” Cherry Creek head basketball coach Kent Dertinger said. “We’re the largest high school in the state, but he’s one of the better athletes to come through here in a long time.”
In two seasons as the Bruins’ starting quarterback, Hammond III threw for nearly 4,000 yards (3,929) and 48 touchdowns without losing a game. But no matter how much success he found on the gridiron, his true love always remained the same.
“Definitely basketball — I’ve been around it more than anything else,” said Hammond III, who committed to Colorado in September and officially signed his letter of intent in November. “Even though I had some success with football, playing college basketball was what I always wanted to do. Growing up, ever since I realized I could play Division I basketball, [Colorado] was where I wanted to go.”
Hammond III is part of a loaded Cherry Creek senior class. Several multi-sport athletes are already committed to Division I football programs, including Arden Walker (Missouri), Gunnar Helm (Texas) and Myles Purchase (Iowa State), who also play basketball for the Bruins. But it’s Hammond III who clearly stands out the most on the hardwood.
“The game slows down for Julian, especially on the offensive end,” Dertinger said. “He’s super cool, level-headed, makes the right play, makes the right read and doesn’t try to do too much. If he’s not scoring, he finds a way to impact the game with his passing. … He’s very versatile. He’s got a slow heartbeat in that no moment is too big for him. The game slows down for him in big moments and he wants the ball in his hands.”
As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard averaged nearly 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block as the versatile floor leader for a Cherry Creek team that earned the No. 4 seed for the CHSAA Class 5A state tournament but was upset by Regis Jesuit in the second round.
Colorado high schools, like many other states, have had winter sports delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But a new, shortened basketball season is set to finally begin with a 14-game schedule starting Jan. 25. For the Bruins, who return plenty of experience and talent, including their two leading scorers in Hammond III and Purchase, excitement and expectations are both at a high level for 2021.
“We’re not shy about saying our goal is to win the state championship,” Dertinger said. “We’ve got a chip on our shoulder because of the way last season ended and that’s why these multi-sport kids, most of them going on to play Division I football, are all coming back to try to win that state championship. It’s a rare opportunity for me as a coach to have this group of athletes together at once so that’s definitely our goal.”
And for Hammond III, it’s not only a shot at redemption, it’s a chance to end his high school career with three state titles — with the final one being his first in the sport he loves most.
“Just knowing that we went out like that last year, it just fuels us for this year,” Hammond III said. “And also being a senior, you want to go out the right way like we did in football.”