New Charlotte Bobcats center Justin Hamilton defines a late-bloomer.
He didn’t play organized basketball until he was 16. He didn’t start on the varsity until his senior year at a Utah high school.
Yet six years later, the 7-footer has signed a 10-day contract with the Bobcats, with the chance to stick for the rest of the season on a team chasing the playoffs.
“I’m pretty new to basketball, so I can afford to get better at everything,” Hamilton said in a phone interview Tuesday with the Observer. “And I’m a perfectionist.”
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Growing up, Hamilton played pretty much everything except basketball. He said he came from a football-centric family, also played baseball and was an avid snowboarder and skier. As a teen he grew so tall his father convinced him to give basketball a real try.
“I ended up loving it,” said Hamilton, who played college ball at Iowa State and Louisiana State.
Hamilton spent this season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the NBADevelopment League. He posted impressive numbers: 19.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game over a 37-game schedule.
The D-League is typically an environment dominated by guards. What did Hamilton get from that experience?
“It was good. There were quite a few good big men,” Hamilton said. “It’s like an NBA schedule, so it’s a grind. I felt it was a good platform to show my skills off and be dependable.”
The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Hamilton in the second round of the 2012 draft, then traded his rights to the Miami Heat. He played overseas the 2012-13 season in Croatia and Latvia at the request of the Heat. Miami wanted him to refine his game in Europe, allowing the Heat to retain his rights without using up a roster spot.
He was in the Heat’s training camp in 2013, being cut just before the regular season. That’s when he turned to the D-League for exposure. A couple of NBA teams, among them the Washington Wizards, looked into signing him before the Bobcats made.
A roster spot came open when the Bobcats waived veteran guard Ben Gordon on Sunday. The Bobcats were down a big man when they included Jeff Adrien in the trade with the Milwaukee Bucks for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour.
Hamilton’s strengths appear to be good shooting range for a big man and consistent rebounding.
“I like to be an all-around player. If they need my long-range skill, I can do that. I can rebound and play defense,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s a good fit.”