By Allen Palmeri

       Tom Hammonds just turned 33, which makes him ideally suited for the Minnesota Timberwolves. On a team with six players under the age of 25, in a league that still sees them as pretenders, Hammonds may be the most valuable backup forward in the National Basketball Association.

       Superstar forward Kevin Garnett has called him the president of the bench. Or, as Hammonds jokingly refers to his role among the reserves, he is the zoo keeper of the zoo crew.

       As the Timberwolves take shots at the giants of the West, poking at the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz, Hammonds gives them presence. At 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, he also gives them a body to throw at the Shaquille O'Neals and Karl Malones for 8 or 10 minutes a night.

       The Timberwolves have been streaky this season, and they seemingly still lack what it takes to be champions. Age being the factor that it is, they likely will not get to the NBA Finals by thinning the ranks of their veterans. That is where No. 20 comes in.

       He still is quite capable of putting up the numbers, as his 12-point effort against the Los Angeles Lakers last February would indicate. And he truly was instrumental in the Timberwolves posting their best-ever record at the All-Star Break (27-20) as well as their first-ever climb to 11 games over .500 at 35-24. Any way you look at it, in ways that often go unnoticed, the big guy has been hard at work.

        "The way that I lead is by example-the way I lead my life, the way the Lord leads my life, and the way that I do everything to the glory of Him," Hammonds said. "The way I conduct myself, not only on the court but around other people, I think that makes a big difference to the younger guys. It's been very rewarding, because they come up and ask me different questions about certain situations, and I just try to do my best to guide them in the right direction."

        "To really learn about God, and how Jesus led His life, you really have to go back to the Bible...daily. That way we find out what the Lord has in store for our lives."

       Hammonds may be influencing the young Timberwolves like his grandfather once influenced him. His grandfather founded a Church of God in Christ in Crestview, Fla., and Tom has been a long-time deacon in that church. In fact, most of what Hammonds now brings to the Timberwolves organization can be traced to this one special relationship which ended in the older man's death three years ago. Hammonds came to know Christ as his Savior through the influence of his grandfather.

        "If it wasn't for him, and what the Lord has done in his life, I probably wouldn't be the person or the player that I am today," Hammonds said. "He was a very big instrument in the way that I conduct myself and the way that I treat other people."

       Part of his purpose in the Twin Cities is to preach so as to please his grandfather. On December 30 and February 20, FCA was at the forefront of a unified "Game Day" outreach where Hammonds and others were able to speak to hundreds of students. This type of work is close to his heart.

        "The importance is to just keep spreading the Word of God," Hammonds said. "The strongest energy source in the world is God. To really learn about God, and how Jesus led His life, you really have to go back to the Bible. It's very important that we stress the fact that we need to read our Bibles daily. That way we find out what the Lord has in store for our lives."

       Hammonds has gone from college star to first-round draft pick to NBA starter to NBA role player. From his glory days at Georgia Tech to scattered NBA glory with the Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets and now the Timberwolves, Christ has been there for every adjustment.

        "I'm just happy," he said. "My grandfather told me before he passed away, the difference between happiness and success is the fact that if you're successful, then you pretty much get what you want. If you're happy, you want what you already have. That's the way I am. I want what I already have.

        "God's blessed me with having a great career. This is my 11th year in the NBA, and I couldn't be happier just to be able to go out there and reach other people who aren't really close to the Lord and just share what He's done in my life with them and just tell them He can do the same thing for them."

Reprinted by permission, Sharing the Victory Magazine.