Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Hallams help make men’s basketball a real band of brothers

Ask men’s basketball coach Joe Scott if there are any more Hallam brothers to unleash on the Sun Belt Conference and he laughs.

Scott recruited the first brother in 2008, snatching hard-nosed Travis Hallam away from Harvard and Yale and a slew of other schools. In 2009, Scott signed Chase Hallam, beating out offers from 20 other universities and buffing him into becoming, as a freshman, one of the scoring jewels of DU’s starting lineup.

Any more Hallams in the pipeline, Joe? Nope, he smiles, we got ’em all.

Not so fast, Joe.

“Technically, I have seven brothers,” says Travis Hallam, a 6-4, 218-pound hard-nosed sophomore forward who’s double majoring in history and math. “I have Chase, and then I have six other brothers who have been in our house and lived with us.”

OK, so the six others aren’t officially Hallams. They’re more like adoptees that arrived much the way scores of other Mesquite, Texas, kids did, drifting in for no-holds-barred basketball games on the concrete driveway behind the Hallam house.

“There were so many kids showing up,” marvels Debbie Hallam, the boys’ mom, “that at one point it got out of hand.”

Not for the kids. For them, the backyard half-court games were intense, high-decibel sparing bouts, a place where the Hallam boys and their brothers could bang and sweat and toughen themselves for organized games elsewhere. They could practice dribbling and driving and shooting and elbowing their way to the NBA-caliber goal their dad, Doug Hallam, set up.

There was always a big jug of Gatorade around, and lights flooded the court after dark. Doug and Debbie offered first aid for skins and sprains, “conflict resolution” when necessary, and a meal and a mattress for any kid unable to amble his way back home at night.

There were plenty of those. One boy’s home became so bleak after his mother got cancer that he couldn’t stand living there. The Hallams let him stay with them. Another boy’s mother had to be packed off to a mental hospital. The Hallams took him in, too. A third boy had to testify against his father in a domestic violence case. The father got 10 years; the son stayed with the Hallams until he could get his life on track.

Other kids ended up as part of the family just by coming over, hanging out and staying the night.

“I felt sorry for my mom,” recalls Travis Hallam. “But she loved it; she loves all her boys.”

Athletes all

The results of the family’s generosity are telling. One young man plays basketball for Saint Louis University, another is a wide receiver for Grambling State, a third is a quarterback for West Texas A&M and a fourth plays basketball at the University of Texas at Dallas. A fifth attends Oklahoma State, and the sixth lives in Dallas and works two jobs.

All but one is of African-American or Mexican descent. All conformed to Doug Hallam’s strict rules — no earrings, no bad grades, and everybody does chores. They also listened to Doug Hallam’s guidance and learned to respect themselves and others.

Mostly, they had a blast. The Hallam living room became an “all purpose field,” where the boys rough-housed, joked, and played every sport there was and some they made up.

“There’s not an item in my house that has not been broken,” Debbie Hallam says, shaking her head. Tables, chairs, they all went, sometimes with the help of Dad, who boasts that Chase — 6 feet, 5 inches and 205 pounds of muscle — has yet to take him down in living-room wrestling.

No wonder. Doug Hallam, a 46-year-old home remodeler, wrestled in college, threw the shot put and was tough enough to play defensive tackle for Coe College at 215 pounds. He worked as a roofer to get in shape during summers.

“I’d carry shingles until I’d bleed,” he says.

When the boys were born, Doug Hallam began pushing them in sports, preparing his boys for the fierce, unbridled, indelicate Joe Scott coaching style with the fierce, unbridled, indelicate Doug Hallam coaching style.

“They called [Doug Hallam] the Bobby Knight of the elementary school league,” Travis Hallam laughs. “He never threw a chair or anything, but they really thought he was gonna have a heart attack; veins popping out of his neck and all.”

The kids played so many sports they changed uniforms in the car on their way to the next game. You want to play in college, Doug Hallam exhorted his sons, you’d better be better than everyone else.

Boot camp for boys

The regimen started in fourth grade, when the brothers spent summers with a personal trainer. There was plenty of fun with other kids, but also plenty of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, duck walks, stair and hill climbs, and a cozy five-mile run every day.

“They’d get tired at night and I’d say, ‘I will love and respect you whatever you choose to do, but if you want to play at the next level, then you’ve got to outwork the next guy,’” Doug Hallam says. “You’ve got to push yourself.”

Debbie Hallam didn’t always agree.

“There were so many fights,” Travis Hallam recalls. “My mom would be like, ‘You’re gonna burn him out.’ But he continued to push me. I’m glad. I wouldn’t have ended up here.”

That pushing and lots of practice propelled the boys to all-state honors in high school, a 95-10 record in AAU play and triumphs on the prestigious Dallas Heroes select teams. All with the indefatigable support of their parents, who one season attended 233 of their sons’ basketball games. Now that the boys are playing at DU, Doug and Debbie Hallam come up from Texas to see their boys perform for the coach they believe is “so much like me,” Doug Hallam says.

The parents come to cheer for business major Chase Hallam, the “dominator,” and Travis Hallam, the “glue guy.”

“I want to get after it; to get it done,” says Chase Hallam, with fire in his eyes. “That’s my job.”

“I’m a team guy,” Travis Hallam says confidently. “I’m gonna take charges, not let a guy score, force a guy out of bounds on the base line. Do the things people don’t really see.”

Joe Scott sees. And appreciates.

“They’re both tough kids,” Scott says. “They have a selflessness and willingness to play to win. That’s a rare thing today.

“They respect their differences, and I think that helps them pull together. When you have two guys like that, the next thing you know you’ve got three; when you got three, you get six. Then the job is to get them all like that, where all they care about is winning — playing to win.”

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