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Artist at work on the court

By Used with permission from the Eagle Tribune Online. By Steve Palladino Staff Writer

LOWELL -- It is tough to determine the difference between Meghan Hamilton -- the art student -- and Meghan Hamilton -- the artist on the basketball court.

For the past five years, Hamilton has been illustrating, and authoring, some impressive stories -- both on the hardwood and in the classroom.

As a senior captain for the UMass Lowell women's basketball team, the Londonderry native is a lead writer in penning the River Hawks best season in six years.

Off the court, she has been scripting some impressive children's material that could find its way to publication after graduation.

But now the biggest focus in Hamilton's life are the basketball goals that are within reach for the senior guard -- a Northeast-10 title and a trip to the NCAA Regional tourney.

This weekend Hamilton and her teammates will compete at Bentley College for the Northeast-10 championship. The No. 2 River Hawks (22-6) will meet No. 11 Assumption (14-14) tomorrow night at the Dana Center, starting at 6 p.m. The winner will advance to Saturday night's championship (7 p.m.) vs. the winner of Southern Connecticut and Bentley.

"We just have to take care of what we have to do," said Hamilton, who scored 14 points and dished out five assists in Tuesday night's quarterfinal win over Bryant (60-51).

The 5-7 shooting guard is averaging 8.8 points and 2.7 assists for the most successful UMass Lowell team that she has been part of.

"The great thing about Meghan is that she competes and keeps our team together," said UMass Lowell head coach Kathy O'Neil, who is now in her 18th season.

"We are a very diverse team and Meghan is our glue," said O'Neil. "We have engineering majors, accounting majors, an exercise physiology major, an international business major. That is a pretty diverse group and Meghan keeps us together."

Off the court, Hamilton has put together a children's book titled, "When I grow up I want to be a rock star." The book features 10 poems and is Hamilton's first attempt at what could be a productive writing and illustration career.

A basketball injury in the summer of 2000 has given Hamilton a deeper appreciation for her overall artistic talents, be it athletically or with a pad and pen.

But it was a frustrating year to gain that appreciation.

Following a successful sophomore year where she helped the River Hawks to the New England Collegiate Conference championship (the year before Lowell joined the NE-10), a mishap at the Massachusetts Bay State games led to a dislocated finger.

At first it appeared that the injury would set Hamilton back for three months but, by December, it was apparent that the five-month old injury would force Hamilton into a medical red shirt for her junior season.

Hamilton's finger injury took away just more than her ability to play basketball. For the art major, that injury took away an important tool of her trade and forced her to understand just how important both were in her life.

"I missed basketball more than I thought I would," said Hamilton who, from the bench, watched her team suffer though an 11-16 season in 2000-2001.

Hamilton was able to find the silver lining in her injury and believes that she is a better basketball player for it.

"It was frustrating but I learned a lot, especially how much I enjoy the game," said Hamilton.

O'Neil believes that while Hamilton was unable to practice during the time of her injury, she was able to grow as a basketball player.

"Meghan is now a much more mature player (since returning from her injury)," said O'Neil. "That injury was a tough experience for her because Meghan has never had to sit for anything."

The injury occurred at a point that Hamilton was starting to flourish as a collegiate basketball player. The flourishing would continue -- but not until after Hamilton was forced to the sideline.

"She started to turn the corner (as a player) in the second semester of her sophomore year and to take a year off at this level is tough and come back to get back to where she was."

Tough? Yes, but Hamilton was able to complete the comeback process.

Since returning from her injury, Hamilton has become a more focused and determined player. Not once, since her return, has she let the injury hold her back. "One thing you can say about Meghan is she is defiantly not timid," said O'Neil. "She is fearless. She gives us a very tough dimension.

"Any time you are a competitive person and you have to sit and watch, you become hungrier."

Hamilton is looked upon as the River Hawks defensive stopper and she is averaging 2.1 steals per game.

"(When she came here), Meghan had to learn how to play defense," said O"Neil. "With her athleticism she could get away with it more than the average person but now she is a tremendous defender."

With all the pieces in place -- her leadership, defense and determination -- Hamilton may be ready to pen another interesting story.