Julian Hammond III has proudly worn the “III” as part of his moniker since joining the Colorado Buffaloes.
Now being a legacy namesake means so much more.
On Saturday, Julian Hammond Sr., the grandfather of CU’s sophomore guard and a former standout with the Denver Rockets of the ABA, passed away. One of the original professional basketball stars in Denver, the elder Hammond eventually became a longtime usher during Nuggets games at the Pepsi Center and, of course, was an avid supporter of the blossoming hoops careers of his grandchildren.
“He played, my dad played, seeing that was inspiring,” Hammond III said. “I wanted to follow in their footsteps. He was a pro, and that’s the goal for me. He was a big inspiration growing up.”
Hammond Sr. grew up in Chicago and played collegiately at Tulsa. He spent five seasons with the Rockets, from 1967-68 through 1971-72, averaging 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 329 career games. He averaged a career-high 13.8 points for the Rockets during the 1970-71 season and averaged a career-best 7.7 rebounds in his second pro season in 1968-69.
Following his playing days, Hammond Sr. remained in Denver and spent three decades working for the telecommunications company that eventually became Qwest. The father of CU’s guard, Julian Hammond II, starred at Aurora Christian Academy before playing at Loyola Marymount in the mid-1990s. Hammond III also was a star quarterback at Cherry Creek before committing solely to basketball with the Buffs.
Hammond III’s younger brother, Christian, recently committed to play collegiately at Santa Clara.
“I’m trying to make him proud, my dad proud,” Hammond III said. “Keep the name going and be successful and just doing the best I can. He would come to our games when he had the chance. But growing up, he was always there to watch me play.”
CU head coach Tad Boyle said he never met Hammond Sr., but he has fond memories of watching him play with the Rockets at the Denver Coliseum and Auditorium Arena. Boyle said some of his earliest memories as a basketball fan was driving with his father from their Greeley home to watch the Rockets teams that featured Hammond, Byron Beck and, for one season, former CU standout Chuck Williams.
“I never met him, unfortunately, but I remember watching him as a kid,” Boyle said. “Byron Beck, Julian Hammond, I remember those two for sure. I remember them distinctly. I was eight to 10-years old, and your eyes are wide open as a kid.
“As I talk to people around the Boulder community, to me one of the greatest things about college athletics, a guy can bring his son to a CU game, or maybe multiple ones, and there’s memories created with the youth in our community. I want the youth in our community to remember, ‘I went to CU games when I was a kid when KJ Simpson was the point guard, Julian Hammond (III) played.’ You remember the names. When I run into alumni, alumni identify themselves with the teams that were successful. Here I am, Julian Hammond just passes away and I remember as an eight to 10-year old kid going to watch him play at Auditorium Arena. Those are memories that we can create for our kids are special and they’ll have them the rest of their lives.”