By scott hotard
July 12, 2012
Justin Hamilton surprised many who follow LSU basketball when the 7-footer from Utah announced in April he would bypass his senior season to pursue a pro career.
The move seemingly paid off Thursday night as the Philadelphia 76ers selected Hamilton with the 45th overall pick of the NBA draft, then shipped his rights to the Miami Heat as part of a deal that sent No. 27 pick Arnett Moultrie to Philadelphia. Hamilton becomes the first LSU player to be drafted since Marcus Thornton went 43rd in 2009.
“We’ve said that Miami needed size, and Hamilton’s a guy that has emerged as a pretty good player the last couple of years,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said during the network’s coverage of the draft. “He’s got pretty good hands and is a big body that can bang and rebound and he can defend in the post. He’s got good strength. He’s not going to beat you up and down the floor and he’s not a tremendous athlete, but he’s got a good skill level.”
After spending his first two college seasons at Iowa State as a role player, Hamilton transferred to LSU in 2010. After sitting out the following season to satisfy NCAA residency requirements, he thrived as a go-to option in LSU’s offense, averaging team highs in scoring (12.9), rebounding (7.2) and blocked shots (1.4), and helping the Tigers rebound from consecutive 20-loss seasons to earn an NIT berth.
A second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection, Hamilton shot 49.4 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the free-throw line.
Due to graduate from LSU in May and set to be married in August, Hamilton passed on the chance to pad his stock by returning for a senior season and instead left the Tigers a year early.
He spent the past several weeks working out for a number of NBA teams, including the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. He watched Thursday’s draft back home in Utah with his family, according to LSU spokesman Kent Lowe.
Unlike players drafted in the first round, those picked in the second round are not guaranteed a contract.
Hamilton will likely report to the NBA Summer League and need to earn his way onto the Heat’s roster.