Stepping up: After ‘inconsistent’ freshman season, Hamrick ready to assume leadership role for Rams

Strasburg's Dylan Hamrick drives the baseline during a recent practice session. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Dylan Hamrick is only a sophomore, but he’s already becoming a veteran presence in Strasburg High School’s boys basketball program. That’s the sort of status earned when you take the fast track to the varsity squad.

As an eighth-grader two years ago, Hamrick competed as one of the youngest members of the Rams’ junior varsity squad. Last year he was one of two freshmen to earn a spot with the varsity team, with which he saw extended action – some as a starter – throughout the 2016-17 season.

Strasburg opens its new season under first-year head coach Larry Fox on Tuesday with a road game at Page County, and with the loss of five seniors to graduation off last season’s squad that went 3-20, the Rams are going to look to players like Hamrick to take charge this winter.

“I know I’m looked up to as a leader and I’ve just gotta step up in all the things we do on the court,” Hamrick said last week. “I’ve gotta score, I’ve gotta lead the team, just be the player they always look up to. And I’m willing to be that person.”

That many players on Strasburg’s varsity team are already looking to Hamrick to produce on the court isn’t an uncomfortable situation for the sophomore. He’s been groomed for such a role by competing against players much older than him since he became a part of the Rams’ hoops program.

Former Rams head coach Hamilton Doyle was quick to praise Hamrick’s poise under pressure following an early season loss last winter, and Fox, who coached Strasburg’s middle school program for several years and coached the junior varsity squad in 2016-17, holds similar high regard for Hamrick’s ability to play beyond his age.

“For such a young kid he has such a maturity about his level of play,” Fox said of Hamrick, who also split time as the starting quarterback for Strasburg’s varsity football team this past fall. “He doesn’t get rattled a ton. He understands the game. He really does. He doesn’t let things bother him. He’s kind of like an old throwback player to where he plays at a certain pace and he sees things before they happen. He really has a good pace to his game.”

Fox said Hamrick would be one of a handful of players this season that he expects to score anywhere from seven to 12 points each game, a list that also includes senior point guard Justin King, junior forward Stephen Kloosterman and junior swingman Brody Tomblin.

Fox added that Hamrick and King, who provide the Rams with an experienced backcourt, could be the tandem that makes the Rams’ offense go this season.

“Honestly in this day in age, the way basketball’s played now, I think guard play’s the key,” Fox said. “You can have the biggest kids in the world, if you don’t have guards to get where you need to get, it’s really not gonna help you having those big guys. So I think guard play’s gonna be huge for us this year.”

For Hamrick to successfully fill that role, he said, he needs to show improvement from what he considered an inconsistent freshman season. He had his highs – in what he said was a big confidence builder, for example, Hamrick scored 16 points, all in the second half, as the Rams upset rival Central in a late-season clash – but his goal this winter is to enjoy those highs on a more consistent basis.

“I look to improve this year. I don’t think I played all that well last year. I need to improve this year and since I got used to the pace of varsity I hope it comes easier this year,” said Hamrick, adding that his inconsistencies were prevalent in his shooting, scoring and ball security.

“I worked on a lot (in the offseason), just everything. Shooting, dribbling, playing with the guys. Just played a lot of basketball in the offseason, played on an AAU team with coach (Fox). Just getting familiar with the game.”

Hamrick’s greatest asset on the court, he said, is his shooting ability. Though he expressed a desire to become more well-rounded offensively, Fox said Hamrick is further along than he gives himself credit for.

“He gets to the rim and finishes more so than he probably realizes,” Fox said. “He does have a good outside shot and I think that helps him, it frees up some lanes to get to the rim, and he probably doesn’t even realize he gets to the rim more than he does.”

Tuesday’s season opener will mark the second straight season Strasburg will debut a new head coach.

Fox said the Rams are picking up on the new schemes quickly – he’s reinstalling a style of play familiar to the program after Doyle introduced a fast-paced style last season – and Hamrick said the adjustment period under Fox, a familiar face for many in the basketball program, has been a smooth one.

“I’ve been around coach Fox and I’ve been around all of those guys that we’re playing with now, so it’s a very comfortable feeling,” Hamrick said. “We’re fortunate to have coach Fox here with us, for the team and the school. He’s gonna put us in the right places to execute and we’ve just gotta do our job. And with us and the players, I think we all have a great bond. There’s nobody that’s really left out. We’re all just together as a unit.”