This past May, now-former Cowboy Leyton Hammonds finished his OSU career after four seasons playing in orange and black.
Before heading off to Finland to begin his professional career in Finland’s top basketball league Korisliiga, was kind enough to answer some questions. He offered some great insight about signing a contract with a pro team overseas, Brad Underwood’s coaching style, and why new head coach Mike Boynton will be successful at Oklahoma State.
Phillip Slavin: How did you end up signing with BC Nokia in Finland?
Leyton Hammonds: After the season I went agent shopping just to look around at what agents could work with me. Chet Ervin out of Texas Sports was the best pick for me. After that he did all the work, I give him all the credit. He put my name out there to the market, the overseas market and kinda let the teams come to him. He pretty much got me the gig out in Finland.
Slavin: Have you been out there yet?
Hammonds: No not yet. I’ve actually never been out of the country before, but I’ll head up there for the first time in August, in the middle of August.
Slavin: Since you’ve never been out of the U.S., how are you feeling about getting a job in Finland and moving out of the country?
Hammonds: I’m pretty excited. It will be a great opportunity. I get to play basketball professionally and that’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid. But at the same time I get to travel the world, see parts of the world that I knew that existed but I couldn’t even imagine what they looked like if I tried to dream it up. I’m pretty excited.
Slavin: You just graduated from Oklahoma State. How do you feel your four years went? Were you satisfied with your time there?
Hammonds: Yeah. I mean those four years were a great learning experience for me. I had some of the best times of my life, I had some of the worst times of my life. I enjoyed my time there in Stillwater. I wouldn’t want to go back and do it over again because I feel like I did it the right way. I’m just happy that I got my degree. I learned so much playing there from different coaches, different players. I developed as a player throughout my years. I feel like I didn’t reach my full potential, but at the same time I learned a lot about myself and the game of basketball that I think will help me in the future.
Slavin: What was the transition from Travis Ford to Brad Underwood like?
Hammonds: For me it was a little tough. With change... I’m not saying it takes me awhile to adjust, I’m used... I guess I’m a loyal type of person. I played on the same AAU team growing up. I didn’t change around high schools, I mean I had to going out of my freshman year because it was a family move, but other than that. I’m used to having the same coach around pretty much my entire career of basketball. Then for me to go through two coaches and have to change coaches going into my senior year was hard for me. But at the same time, I feel like it was a good fit. Coach Underwood did a great job with us my senior year and I also think Coach Ford did a great job with the teams I had my first three years. It was a blessing for me because I got to pick the brains of two great coaches. The fact that some players only get to have one and I got to have two great coaches and multiple different assistant coaches is good. I had a lot of opportunities to learn from them and to learn about the game of basketball.
Slavin: What was your reaction when you found out Brad Underwood was leaving for Illinois?
Hammonds: I thought it was a joke when I first saw it. I thought someone was playing around on Twitter or something...
Wow— Leyton Hammonds (@Leyfro) March 18, 2017
...Honestly, I’m just happy for him because... I wish him the best. I wish he could have stayed at OSU, but they hired a great coach in Mike Boynton and I feel like he will do a great job with this program for many years to come. I just see success in the program. At the same time, I wish he could have stayed. I’m not a head coach in college basketball and I couldn’t tell you what it’s like to be one, or a head coach in anything so I really wouldn’t know what decision is right to make. But I really do wish Coach Underwood the best at Illinois because he’s a great coach and I really think he’ll do a great job out in the Big Ten.
Slavin: Speaking of Coach Boynton why do you think he’ll succeed at OSU?
Hammonds: He’s just a coach I think just has that “it”, or that “eye” where he can see what a player needs to get better at, see what a player is really good at, see what a player needs to excel more at if he wants to be more successful on the court. I feel he just has that ‘it.’ I think the world of him, I think the world of the coaching staff there and I think they’re going to do a great job.
Slavin: How did Coach Boynton help you the most this last year?
Hammonds: Coming into the year, I didn’t really have good ball handling. I could shoot the ball but not on a consistent level all around the floor. Coach Boynton, the shots that we put up before practice, he would make sure that they were in the offense. That’s the first time I’ve ever worked out with a coach, or anybody, that implemented the offense into a workout that wasn’t scheduled as far as a team or individual work out. If you were just coming to get shots up he would somehow implement the offense into each drill I did so that it would come natural to me when it came to game time....
...It’s crazy because he could have been our head coach last year. He did everything a head coach did besides call time out. It’s crazy because... how Coach Underwood worked, he needed every assistant coach and I appreciate Coach Underwood for doing that. He wasn’t just a coach that goes ‘I’m going to run the show’, he would ask his assistant coaches from Coach Evans, to Coach Henderson, 'Hey, what do you think about this?’ and they would put their two cents in and they would all come together and make something happen. I just feel like Coach Boynton is ready.
...He’s worked with all the freshmen they had the past year. The one player that I really saw make that big improvement working with Coach Boynton was Brandon Averette. That kid came in skilled and very athletic, but with him working with Coach Boynton pretty much every day of his freshman season, you saw flashes of how good he’ll be in the future...
(As a freshman, Averette filled the role of backup point guard all season, playing in all 33 games and starting one, and averaged 14.8 minutes a game. He averaged 5.2 points on 44% shooting including 45% from three. He also got 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game.)
...Also with Cameron McGriff, Thomas Dziagwa, and Lindy Waters, all of them and Lucas. He worked with all those freshman and you just don’t see a lot of freshmen get that many minutes in the Big 12 and be successful. So when they hired him, you look back and think ‘What did he do for our program?’ and you start thinking about the things he did this past season. He was probably only on staff for a good nine to ten months and he did that much with those freshman. It’s a great thing. I feel comfortable having the organization in his hands.
Slavin: What was your best moment in school, on the court or off the court?
Hammonds: Well now it’s graduating. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Growing up, my mother was a professor, my grandmother was a teacher. It was education-oriented around me in the household growing up. So getting my degree was something, I knew I would do, but I actually did it and I did it in four years. I didn’t have to stay another year. I didn’t have to take extra time. I did it in all four years. I could have done it early, but I felt it was easier to just do it in four years. The fact that I got my degree, I feel that was my biggest accomplishment, because at the end of the day that ball’s going to stop bouncing for everybody. They can remember all the shots I made, and the rebounds I had, all the fouls I had, but it really boils down to how you leave your mark and what you’re going to do after you’re done playing. I plan to be on this earth as long as I can and basketball is just going to be part of my life. It’s going to be a stepping stone to elevate my life and do better things in this world.
Slavin: What was your best game or favorite game at OSU?
Hammonds: I would say... this past year when we went back to TCU because that was my last game to play in Fort Worth and that’s pretty much home to me. I mean, I played really well but at the same time, I left all my family and friends at home and I kinda put on my curtain call there. It was like my final act in Fort Worth, Texas and I went out with a bang. I feel like that was my favorite on the court moment.
(Against TCU in Fort Worth, Hammonds led the team with 21 points on 8-13 shooting including 5-8 from three. He also nabbed seven rebounds. It was his best game of the season.)
Slavin: What do you see yourself doing after your playing days are over?
Hammonds: I would love to stay with the game of basketball. I got a management degree so I would love to manage the offices of a professional basketball organization. That would be the ideal thing for me. But it’s early for me. I kinda got to see where basketball takes me now and what connections I get and what other interests I have. But I would say as of now it’s a dream job, besides playing basketball, would be working with a professional team in a management office.
I want to thank Leyton for taking the time to speak with me. He was a pleasure to talk to and we all wish him luck during the next steps of his journey overseas.
Once a Cowboy, always a Cowboy.