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The Need for Speed

Nov. 29, 2005

By Scott MacDonald – When former Georgia Tech men’s basketball great Tom Hammonds worked at a car dealership as a young man, he always dreamed of owning one. Now, he does. Tom Hammonds Chevrolet is located in Darlington, S.C., and Hammonds enjoys his childhood dream.

“Everything is going well, and I really enjoy the car business,” said Hammonds. “When I was young, I always dreamed of owning a car dealership when I worked at one, but then I was washing them. I enjoyed the smell and look of a new car. It’s nice to see people come into your dealership and leave with a brand new car, the look on their face is worth it.”

The look on their face. Most dealership owners only care about getting the car sold, but not Hammonds. It’s a trait he’s always had since his playing days at Georgia Tech. A three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer and All-American, Hammonds enjoyed his relationship with the students on campus, and they enjoyed him.

“I would strike up a conversation with anybody,” said Hammonds. “For the big games, Duke and North Carolina, me and some of the other guys would go out and buy donuts for the students camping out to buy tickets.”

On the night Hammonds had his No. 20 jersey retired, the students showed their appreciation.

“It was a dream come true to have my jersey retired at my final home game,” said Hammonds. “To have all the blood, sweat and tears pay off was something special. And then to get such a warm reception from the students was great. I don’t know how they got it [referring to the `H’ from Tech Tower], but the guy presented me with it on the court and I looked over at Homer Rice, and he was ready to slap the hand cuffs on him.”

Hammonds was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the spring of 1989 and played for 12 seasons in the National Basketball Association. He had many highlights during his career, especially the numerous buzzer beaters that he sank, but defeating the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics during the 1994 NBA playoffs and pouring 38 points on the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden were tops on the list.

“We were the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, so that was one of the greatest moments ever for me. I also remember a game in the Garden where I scored 38 points when I played for the Bullets. Spike Lee and I were going at it all night. That was fun.”

During the course of Hammonds’ career, he played with many talented players, but none more renowned than Kevin Garnett for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Kevin is a lot like me, an extreme competitor,” said Hammonds. “He really respected the older players, including me. He was not your typical teenage superstar; he worked hard and listened to what the older players had to say.”

During his NBA and Tech basketball careers, Hammonds never let go of his fascination with fast cars and race tracks. He drove the fastest street car available, a 1969 Camaro, and then started his own National Hot Rod Association Drag Racing team, Tom Hammonds Enterprises. Like his basketball abilities, Hammonds’ team was very competitive.

“I’ve always loved automobiles and racing,” said Hammonds. “I think I gave Bobby [Cremins] some of those white hairs on top of his head, because whenever we did not have practice or a game, I was always trying to find a track and race.”

Another passion for Hammonds was fishing. While at Tech, he always tried to get out and do a little fishing in his spare time. Now, he has two ponds at his house in Florida and tries to take his children, Tom IV (19), Keelan (10) and Kaison (6), out when he can. But now, golf has taken up more of his time.

“I don’t get out as much as I’d liked,” said Hammonds about fishing. “I’ve been playing golf, but still enjoy fishing.”

Hammonds oldest Son, Tom IV, is a sophomore guard at East Carolina University and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2004-05. He led the Pirates in three-point field goals made and three-point field goals attempted.

A 1996 Georgia Tech Hall of Fame inductee, Hammonds would like nothing more than to get back to Atlanta, a place where he made so many lasting relationships.

“I would love to move back to Atlanta,” said Hammonds. “There are some opportunities that might allow that to happen and that’s exciting.”


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