NEW ORLEANS — Justin Hamilton isn’t just the only former Utah high school basketball player who’s taking part in NBA All-Star weekend events.
The D-League standout is also living proof that not all ex-Lone Peak High basketball players play for BYU.
And, yes, the 7-footer, who played college ball at Iowa State and LSU after helping the Knights win the 2008 Class 5A title, is quite proud of that fact.
“My (high school) teammates all play for BYU,” he said. “I’m the only guy that didn’t go.”
That’s only a slight exaggeration. The Cougars’ roster includes four old Knights: Nate Austin, Tyler Haws, Eric Mika and Josh Sharp (and with more on the way).
Both of Hamilton’s parents went to BYU — his dad was on the Cougars’ 1984 national championship squad — and he keeps his home base in the Beehive State. But he’s now playing for the D-League's Sioux Falls in hopes that his NBA aspirations will get a jumpstart after he came close to making the Miami Heat’s roster this past fall.
“I feel like I can help any team that I go to,” Hamilton said. “It was good to get that respect from everyone on the team. I’ve got to just keep working and get back.”
Hamilton scored 20 points in the D-League All-Star Game, which took place on the same court the NBA All-Star teams practiced on during Saturday’s Jam Session.
The 23-year-old played in Croatia last year after being drafted by Philly in the second round and subsequently traded to Miami. He wore a mask Saturday because he broke his nose in the preseason while with the Heat.
It hurt worse, no doubt, to get waived from Miami a few days before the 2013-14 season began.
Hamilton laughed when asked about the difference between Miami and North Dakota.
“About 90 degrees,” he said.
Hamilton is using the experience as motivation.
His mindset since then, the 2012 All-SEC second-team center said, is to “just keep working and there’s (29) other teams out there. Keep working and you’ll find a spot.”
Sioux Falls picked him up less than a week after he was cut by the Heat last October, and he’s been on a tear with the Skyforce. Hamilton, a versatile big who can be a force inside and beyond the perimeter, is averaging 19.4 points and 9.5 rebounds.
“I’m like a stretch-five and four. It doesn’t matter. I can play both positions,” he said. “I just have to find a team that needs that kind of position.”
Hamilton, who enjoyed catching up with Louisiana friends while in the Big Easy for All-Star weekend, laughed when asked why he didn’t participate in the dunk contest.
“I like to save my legs,” he said.
Lone Peak isn’t Hamilton’s only Utah connection. When he began his college career, the Jazz’s Diante Garrett was his teammate at Iowa State.
“He’s a good guy. That was my starting college point guard,” said Hamilton, who worked out for the Jazz before the 2012 draft. “He’s doing great with Utah.”
Hamilton would be in heaven if somebody said the same about him in the future.
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