Tommy Hamilton IV knew his DePaul teammates would be ready to play well Thursday against Florida Atlantic, if only to make up for their bad effort a week ago against Arizona State.
“We know we were better than what we showed against ASU,’’ he said. “The thing about basketball is you get another opportunity.’’
Hamilton had nine points and five rebounds in DePaul’s 81-70 victory, the 1,400th win in the program’s history. His teammate, senior forward Sandi Marcius, led the Demons (5-3) with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Opportunity is something the 6-10 freshman from Chicago already has been schooled in after suffering a knee injury in high school that derailed him for a time.
The son of former 7-2 King star Thomas Hamilton was a highly recruited player at Whitney Young before the injury robbed him of most of his sophomore and junior years.
Hamilton transferred his senior year to IMG Academy in Florida where former Public League coach Loren Jackson worked, and he played for the local Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.
But his time off, and his struggles with weight and conditioning, put off some colleges as Hamilton neared graduation.
“DePaul is one of the schools that was there consistently all of my high school years,’’ he said. “I suffered an injury, but they never let up on me. They always believed in me. And I’m a hometown kid, so who doesn’t want to make a mark in your hometown.’’
Hamilton IV already is making marks as the Blue Demons’ starting center, averaging 11.3 points and 4.9 rebounds and drawing the eyes of NBA scouts who forever covet big men with potential.
But Hamilton IV and coach Oliver Purnell know there is a road to travel toward reaching that potential.
“I’m pretty pleased with his progress,’’ Purnell said. “I’d like to see him rebound the ball more and place an emphasis on that. He’s got to understand he’s going to face some double teams and he’s got to be an effective passer as well.
“Sometimes he’ll go for a while and not make an impact in a game. I think that’s partly conditioning. But he’s come a long way in his conditioning since the summer. I’m proud of him for that, but I’ll push him to do more and I expect more.’’
No one expects more than the 285-pound Hamilton IV himself.
“I’m pretty hard on myself,’’ he said. “I know I can do a lot better and get a lot more rebounds for my team. That’s what I’m trying to work on now and be better on the boards.
“Honestly, I’m just playing,’’ he said of the attention he is drawing. “I didn’t come in with that much hype because I had hurt my knee. I guess I’m re-establishing myself and going about it as if I was nobody.’’
Yet he could be a key “somebody’’ in the Blue Demons’ hopes for this season.
“He’s learning about ceiling and using not just his feet but his body,’’ Purnell said. “He’s learning to be patient and what a good shot is. I’m pleased with his progress to this point, but we’ll push him to do more because I think he’s very talented.’’