Tommy Hamilton Feels Illini In His Heart

Tommy Hamilton (Jack Lyman)

Illinois has enjoyed its fair share of recruiting success on the hardwood recently. Looking constantly to replenish and upgrade talent, Fighting Illini coaches are after some of the top talent in the younger age groups. Among their recruiting targets is 2013 Whitney Young big man Tommy Hamilton, who feels at home at Illinois.

Tommy Hamilton is a 6'-9", 250 pound center from Whitney Young high school in Chicago. This program has produced many high major players over the years, but Hamilton could be the best big man the school has produced in awhile.

Hamilton has been exposed to the Illinois program for a long time despite being just a sophomore. One of the more recent events he attended was Illini Midnight Madness.

"It was really nice. I like it here."

The dunk contest was probably the most exciting portion of the night, aside from DJ Steve Porter's "Illini Press Hop." Hamilton took special notice of Illinois big man Meyers Leonard during the event.

"It was funny to watch Meyers, he's a character."

Having seen Illinois a few times and being a home state guy, Hamilton had great things to say about Illinois and the basketball program.

"I really love the program. It's like a hometown school, it's in my heart. I love Illinois. I love Jerrence (Howard). I love Bruce (Weber). I love all the players, and it is close to home."

Whitney Young head coach Tyrone Slaughter says he and his sophomore big man do not talk much about recruiting at this stage in the process, but he does say Illinois is fully in the hunt. Slaughter talks about what schools are showing interest.

"It is really a few of them. I am not sure about all of them. I know that Illinois has been actively engaged with him. That is a school he has fond admiration for, but I am not really sure about all of them because we really do not talk about it."

Hamilton has played well this year according to his coach. The big man has slimmed down, and it is showing in his game. Slaughter talked about how Hamilton has looked early in the season.

"Tommy has had some exceptional games. He has really done a good job of running the floor. That is one of the things we had tried to get to early in the season, and he has eclipsed where we thought he would be at this point in the season."

The talented youngster is starting to learn how to play as a true big man. Slaughter says his team's game plan is to feed Hamilton the ball in the paint.

"We are making an attempt to get the ball inside, and he is our primary focal point in getting the ball inside. He has done real well for us, and we are happy with where he is right now."

He has lost a significant amount of weight and is in the best condition of his high school career. This helps him run the floor, contribute in transition, and be quicker on the glass.

He passes the ball extremely well and has a high basketball IQ. He sees the floor like very few high school big men do. Hamilton has soft hands and a soft touch around the hoop. He is starting to play more inside, using his body and strength to score on the block. His skill set is high, so with continued work and development in his post game, he could be a future star at whatever college he chooses.

After falling to Jabari Parker and Simeon High School in last year's state final, Hamilton and his teammates have one thing on their minds.

"We want a state championship. We're all business this year."

Returning for Young is a solid core of talent, both young and old. The leader is Sam Thompson, an Ohio State commit. Hamilton laid out a few of the main things they need to accomplish in order to achieve their goal.

"Everybody has to be on the same page. We have to work together and push each other."

Some of the young talent is helping Hamilton out this year. Freshman sensations Jahlil Okafor, a center, and lanky forward Paul White provide Young with a serious core of talent for the future.

"For me if I post up, the double team comes and I can kick it out to our perimeter guys," Hamilton relates. "And now with the big young fella (Okafor), they can't handle us both at the same time."

Hamilton will be relied upon heavily despite his youth. With plenty of time left in his career, college is still pretty distant, but he already knows what he wants in a program.

"The history. I want to be part of a tradition. I want to be a part of a good historic basketball program. I want to be able to come back, sit in the crowd and watch the game. Just add my part to the tradition."

With the talent at Young, it would be no surprise to see Hamilton and his Whitney Young team back in the state finals again. And with the tradition at Illinois, Hamilton promises to be a familiar face at Illinois as he explores his college options.

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