SALT LAKE CITY — After graduating from Lone Peak High School, where he helped lead his team to a 23-2 record and a 5A basketball title in 2008, Justin Hamilton wanted to get away from Utah.
So he went to Iowa State for a couple of years before transferring to LSU, where he was an all-SEC second-team selection, averaging 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Now the 7-foot, 260-pound center would love nothing better than to return home and play for the Utah Jazz, who have the No. 47 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.
"I'd love it," he said. "I've always been a fan of the Jazz and enjoyed coming and watching their games. It'd be a good change to be able to play in front of friends and family and it would be a lot of fun. So if I ended up here, it would be great."
Hamilton was one of 12 players who worked out for the Jazz Saturday morning at the Zion's Bank Basketball Center. Of the dozen, seven were big guys, over 6-foot-9, including three over 7 feet, while four were guards 6-1 or smaller.
Even though the Jazz seem well-stocked with big players, they'll be happy to take a big guy in the middle of the second round if they can get a solid player with potential.
The other 7-footers who worked out Saturday were Greg Somogyi, a 7-2, 242-pound center from Hungary who played four years for UC-Santa Barbara, and Travis Hyman, a 7-footer from Bowie State.
Also on hand Saturday were Greg Mangano, 6-10 forward from Yale; Wesley Witherspoon, 6-9 forward from Memphis; Negueba Samake, 6-11, 230-pound center from Mali; and Tomislav Zubcic, 6-10 forward from Croatia.
Hamilton is probably the most polished of the big men who worked out Saturday, plus he still has a big upside as a player who seems to improve every year.
Dave Hammer, Hamilton's former AAU coach for Salt Lake Metro, calls Hamilton "the ultimate success story." He said Hamilton has "the best work ethic" and he "expects him to do well wherever he ends up."
Hamilton's parents both attended BYU, where his father played defensive tackle for the 1984 national championship team and his mother was a two-time all-conference player.
As a junior at Lone Peak High, he scored four points total, but he really blossomed in the spring playing AAU ball and began to garner attention from big colleges, who are always interested in 7-footers.
"I wanted to leave the state," Hamilton said. "I liked (BYU's) guys and coaches — they're great people — but I needed to get out of here."
Actually, Hamilton wasn't even highly recruited by BYU or any of the in-state schools except Weber State, so he took the offer from Iowa State.
Hamilton has worked out for 12 teams already and said it's been a thrill to talk to people like Larry Bird. He isn't shy about touting his talents on the basketball floor.
"I can play inside or outside," he said. "I'm a good 3-point shooter, I have a good touch and I feel I'm a cerebral player. I'm a good passer and play defense really well."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was happy with Hamilton's workout, saying, "I thought he did well. He's a big body who can shoot outside and is a danger inside and he understands how to play. I thought he did a good job competing against these guys."
Hamilton said he transferred from Iowa State to LSU "to become a better basketball player and to be in the position I'm in now. That was the ultimate goal, so I left and had a great experience at LSU."
He feels he's ready for professional basketball, which is why he came out a year early. The fact that he's already graduated and is getting married in August made the decision easier.
"I feel like there's a lot of potential for me," he said. "I still have a lot to work on, but I keep on working harder and harder and getting better and better."1 comment on this story
JAZZ NOTES: Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said it's possible the Jazz could move up from their second-round position. "We're talking to a lot of people about a lot of things," he said … Of the 12 players who worked out Saturday, the only one between 6-1 and 6-9 was 6-5 French forward Paul Lacombe. The 22-year-old played professionally in France the past four years and is friends with Tony Parker as well as Kim Tillie, a fellow Frenchman who played at the University of Utah for four years … The four guards who worked out Saturday were Casper Ware, 5-10, from Long Beach State, who started 129 of 131 games in college; Josh Magette (pronounced Mah-jet), 6-1, from Alabama-Huntsville; Terrell Stoglin, 6-1, from Maryland; and Reggie Hamilton, 5-11, from Oakland (Michigan).