Even before they were strong enough to bounce or shoot something heftier than a Nerf ball, Isaac and Daniel Hamilton never lacked for basketball role models.
It's just that now the youngest of Greg and Karen Hamilton's five children are quite a bit removed -- geographically -- from the older brothers they grew up with in the family's Los Angeles home.
Oldest sibling Gary Hamilton, who played for four seasons at Miami (Fla.), is in his second year playing professionally in Japan (this for the Fukuoka Rizing franchise) after also playing in Germany and Poland.
And Jordan Hamilton is a rookie with the Denver Nuggets after playing for two seasons at Texas.
Not that the family lets distance corrode the ties that bind the brothers playing for paychecks and Isaac and Daniel, a junior and sophomore, respectively, at St. John Bosco High in the L.A. suburb of Bellflower.
The Hamiltons -- including Greg and Karen's second child and only daughter, Miya -- were in the Staples Center on Thursday night to watch Jordan play seven minutes in the Nuggets' win over the Clippers.
And, as the family departed Mater Dei High (in the Orange County city of Santa Ana) following St. John Bosco's game with the host Monarchs in the 17th Nike Extravaganza, "Gary called us from Japan," Karen Hamilton said Saturday afternoon, laughing, "asking how the boys did against Mater Dei."
Alas, the Braves were handled by California's top-ranked club, 83-62, with the Monarchs leading by 32 points at intermission against their Trinity League opponent
But those in the near-capacity crowd (Mater Dei's state-of-the art Meruelo Athletic Center seats approximately 3,200) didn't need an explanation as to why the youngest Hamiltons are rated among the best prospects in California -- and well beyond.
The 6-foot-4 Isaac was a first-team All-City choice as a sophomore (the brothers played at Los Angeles Crenshaw before transferring to St. John Bosco) and came into this season considered one of the best guards in the national class of 2013.
While Gary is a power forward and Jordan a "wing", Isaac will likely be recruited as a point guard who can run an offense but also create plenty of his own offense, if need be.
The older brothers would no doubt attest that Isaac is much more advanced as a prospect than they were at the same stage.
Here's the rub: Isaac is already saying the same thing about the youngest of the Hamiltons.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore scored a game-high 26 points Friday night.
His improvement from freshmen to sophomore seasons -- heck, from fall to winter -- borders on the startling -- even to those who watch him play every day.
"Daniel has really surprised me," Isaac said Friday night, shaking his head and smiling.
"He's gotten so good, so quickly. I think he's even surprised himself."
Mom laughed again.
"His brothers used to always tease him about 'working on his [basketball] game, instead of spending so much time on his PlayStation'," Karen Hamilton said.
College recruiters should also be aware of this: Isaac and Daniel are likely to be more than high school teammates.
"Although we're a year apart," Isaac said, his braces glistening with his smile, "we're kind of like twins. We like being together -- we're really close."
When he was 29, Gary McKnight landed his first head coaching job at Mater Dei.
He never anticipated that, 30 years later, his resume wouldn't include any other coaching stints.
"I figured that, if we did well, I'd move on to a college game," he said Saturday afternoon, a couple of hours before his team took on a La Verne Lutheran team led by 6-9 Grant Jerrett, who signed with Arizona in November.
Later Saturday, after his Monarchs' 71-66 victory, his record had improved to 914-83.
Obviously, his 30 Mater Dei teams "have done well" but he is still wearing that "Mater Dei red" Nike sweatsuit.
"As the years went on and I got to know a lot of college coaches, I understand how terrible some of their jobs were," he said, smiling.
And he sure likes the job he has hung onto.
"I've had a chance to be around some great kids and be at a school with great support," he said. "I've really been blessed."
• Hours after his team won at Stanford, Arizona coach Sean Miller was in the building to watch two of his November signees.
Jerrett -- the best player in the California senior class -- played with a severe ankle sprain and was limited to seven points and six rebounds but did block four shots.
In the preceding game, future Wildcats' guard Gabe York hit just five of 19 shots from the field while scoring 23 points during his Orange Lutheran squad's 67-45 loss to Long Beach Poly.
Poly (21-1), ranked second in Southern California to Mater Dei, got 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals from 6-5 junior Roschon Prince.
• In the last of the nine games played Saturday -- and it tipped off at nearly 10 p.m. PT -- Las Vegas Bishop Gorman cruised by Chicago Whitney Young 69-50, behind the player considered by most to be the best prospect in the national senior class, 6-5 Shabazz Muhammad.
The left-handed wing did nothing to cause anyone to doubt his national status by scoring 15 of his team's 18 first-period points.
Muhammad, who went to the bench for good with 41 points and three minutes to play, is expected to sign in April with (in no particular order) UNLV, UCLA, Kentucky or Duke.
Whitney Young was paced by one of the best sophomore in the country in 6-9 Jahlil Okafor, who has good footwork in the low post to go with a soft pair of hands and soft shooting touch. He scored 17 points and blocked three shots.