In life, many encounter dreams left unchased or aspirations unfulfilled. Yet, there's something universally inspiring about an underdog story — a tale of defying the odds, proving that the impossible is attainable.
As a walk-on, Hampton Dauparas is the embodiment of the underdog narrative.
Miami University men’s basketball associate head coach Rob Summers knew Dauparas was special when he saw him at walk-on tryouts.
“I felt as if Hampton had great size for a walk-on and that he played extremely hard,” Summers said. “One play that stuck out was he had a great defensive stop where he walled up against an offensive player and secured a rebound.”
This fall, Dauparas earned a spot on the Miami men’s basketball team, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 225 pounds. His journey, however, begins back in high school, when his family moved to Indiana.
Dauparas’ Midwest journey leads to Miami
Dauparas went to Providence Catholic High School in Illinois for his first couple years of prep basketball. Dauparas played in the Under Armor AAU circuit during his time in Illinois.
Then his family made a significant move that led him to La Lumiere School, a prep school in Springfield Township, Indiana, renowned for its nationally recognized basketball program. Miami sophomore guard Ryan Mabrey is also a La Lumiere alum. Once Dauparas made the Miami team, having an old teammate there was helpful for him.
"Ryan introduced me to my new teammates," Dauparas said.
The transition from Illinois to Indiana was more than just geographical; it marked a shift to a faster-paced game and a more demanding practice schedule.
"I was used to being the big guy on my old high school team,” Dauparas said. “When I got to La Lumiere, it was a whole new world of basketball."
As the high school chapter of Dauparas’s career came to an end, he had to choose where to continue his basketball career. He always knew he’d try to walk-on wherever he decided to go to school, but the decision wasn't taken lightly. He also considered Indiana University and Butler University.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
But the first time he stepped foot on Miami’s campus, it felt like home.
This summer, Dauparas spent hours each day in the gym and the weight room to prepare for his walk-on tryout with Miami.
"In the summer, I would text my old coaches at La Lumiere and ask to open the gym up,” Dauparas said.“The gym would be mine for about 3 hours everyday to work on my conditioning, ball handling and skill work.”
Becoming a team player
Dauparas said he was confident throughout the tryout. He believed he matched up well against the rest of the team and thought his efforts would be noticed.
“I controlled everything I could control," Dauparas said. “I would say I was a hard worker in the tryout, and I focused on doing what I needed to do. The team I was on for the scrimmage won and throughout the tryout, I felt like I was able to pick up drills quickly.”
Summers was impressed with Dauparas ability to come in and make an impact.
“His ability to provide energy and his play style was very physical,” Summers said. “I also enjoyed his mentality toward the game and his humbleness.”
After the tryouts, Dauparas was told they would let him know in a couple of days whether or not he made the team. Soon, the coaches sent him a text message and asked if he could come in for a meeting.
“I knew it was a good sign when they asked if I could come see them after class,” Dauparas said. “And that's when they told me I made the team.”
After a few days of hand wringing while waiting for some NCAA paperwork to clear, Dauparas was finally able to practice with his new team.
Now that he’s on the team, Dauparas wants to help Miami win, to play the role of a walk-on.
“My short term goals are to be a great team player,” Dauparas said. “I want to do all the dirty work, setting screens, box out and rebounding.”
Summers expressed his excitement about Dauparas’s future.
"I'm excited to see Hampton develop not just as a player, but as a young man," Summers said. "He has a physicality that will help us prepare for opponents throughout the season. I know he can bring so much to the program and look forward to him embracing his role on our team.”