ALLEN - J.D. Hamilton has never taken a shot for a Tarleton State basketball team. But the senior member of Tarleton's Foul Play pep band sees himself as a part of both the TexAnns and Texans.
Hamilton, a criminal justice major from Breckenridge, is making the absolute most of the end of his own senior season.
"The pep side is what I get into more than anybody else I guess, especially with this being my last year," said Hamilton as he waited for the start of Tarleton State's semifinal contest Friday night at the Lone Star Conference Championship in Allen. "I like to be a distraction to the other team. I know (Tarleton athletic director) Lonn Reisman wants us to be the loudest and proudest we can be, and we want him to see and know that we are the most effective band in the conference."
Reisman is sold. Hence why he reserved a portion of the net cutting ceremony after Saturday's championship victory over Midwestern State especially for Foul Play director Dr. Gary Westbrook. He also let band members cut down one of the Wisdom Gym nets in honor of the Texans' regular season LSC title.
"The Foul Play band has been like a sixth man for us this year and for several years," Reisman said. "They are a part of our Tarleton basketball family, a big part. All our support organizations are, from the cheerleaders and the Texan Rider to the Texan Stars and the band. They add so much to the atmosphere and really help turn Tarleton basketball games into an entertaining event for everyone to attend."
That's music to Hamilton's ears, just as Foul Play has music for basketball fans' ears. They do much more, too.
From donkey noises to Kiss outfits, Foul Play will do anything to distract opposing teams and players. And Hamilton is usually at the center of it all.
"We dressed like Kiss one day when we were playing (Central Oklahoma) in (an LSC tourney semifinal in 2010)," Hamilton recalls. "I still say we're the reason the game went to overtime, because they couldn't make a free throw with us distracting them."
Hamilton recalls conference tournament games from Bartlesville, Okla. and more recently from the Allen Event Center.
"The difference is Allen's about three hours less of a drive, that's the biggest thing," Hamilton said. "I liked Bartlesville because it had an upper deck where we could actually stand above the back board and heckle opponents."
Not that Allen doesn't have its own advantages beyond being closer to home.
"With Allen, the big thing is the town. This place is awesome," Hamilton said. "(Thursday) we went to a bounce house and played trampoline dodge ball and it was great. We only had two injuries in two hours, and I'd say that's a pretty good ratio."
Hamilton enjoys the camaraderie between bands, especially at multi-team events such as the LSC Championship or regional tournaments.
"We get to hang out for a whole week and we make a bunch of friends," he said. "During the regular season, we just show up for a game, play and yell. But (in Allen), we're haning out until three or four o'clock in the morning, making friends with cheerleaders, other band members and others who are at the same hotel. It's really fun."
And creates plenty of memories, from which Hamilton easily chooses a favorite.
"My favorite memory is from when we went to Canyon my freshman year for the girls regional. We lost the first game against Emporia State, but it was still fun," he explained. "We only had about 10 people in the band then, but we started yelling Christmas songs during the free throws and I'll never forget that. We have a lot more members now, but the older people in the band remember the good ole days."
While it sounds like fun and games and an enjoyable break from school, Hamilton and his band mates actually take their work - both playing tunes and distracting foes - quite seriously.
"I have a lot of respect for our organization, and I feel like we're the best at what we do," said Hamilton confidently. "Dr. Westbrook says we're the Division II version of Duke."
And he would know. Westbrook grew up in ACC country on the east coast.
"We have the best director, and a lot of great guys and girls in the band who all love what we do," Hamilton said.
And that's more than playing catchy tunes.
"We just want to help our teams win and be successful," he said. "If that means dressing up and acting crazy or yelling whatever comes to mind to try and distract the other team, not everyone at the game may like it, but that's what we're there to do."
And like the Texans and TexAnns, who are a combined 49-10 this season, they do it well.
Well enough to cut down the nets.