July 23, 2008
QUEENS, N.Y. - Like many college basketball players, four-year St. John's standout Lamont Hamilton dreamed of playing professionally after his college career ended. Last September, Hamilton got his chance, signing to the Fundación Basquet Inca franchise in the Liga Española de Baloncesto (LEB) in Spain.
Hamilton was a major contributor in each of his four seasons for the Red Storm. The big man made quite an impact during his freshman year as he led the squad in blocks with 20 and held the second-highest free throw percentage on the team. He averaged 5.9 points while pulling down 4.2 rebounds each contest.
At 6-10, Hamilton became a tough force inside for St. John's as a sophomore. In a contest against former conference-foe Virginia Tech on December 8, 2004, he scored 24 points, a career-high, to accompany 11 rebounds in the Red Storm's 10-point victory. He finished the season with 42 blocks - a team high - 28 steals and a scoring average of 13.3 per game.
In his junior season, Hamilton won the 2005-06 MBWA Madison Square Garden Outstanding Performance Award. The honor was in recognition of his 24-point scoring effort, including two 3-pointers and four free throws, on January 21, 2006 against Pitt. He also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots, keying the Red Storm to a win over a previously unbeaten 15-0 Panther Squad. The performance fittingly came on Legacy Honors weekend, with St. John's legends from throughout the ages in attendance. Hamilton was also named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for his back-to-back performances against No. 9/9 Pitt and No. 17/15 Louisville.
Hamilton started 30 games in his final season, averaging 6.5 boards and 13.4 points per contest. He left his mark in the Red Storm record books with 1,216 career points and 682 career rebounds, finishing in the all-time top 30 for both categories. He received first team All-BIG EAST, first team All-Met and NABC All-District honors. Hamilton was also named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll twice during his stellar season. He led the team in both scoring and rebounding that year.
In September 2007, Hamilton was drafted to the Fundación Basquet Inca team in Mallorca, Spain. Mallorca, the largest island of Spain, is part of the Balearic Islands archipelago, nestled 100 miles off the northeast coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. In his rookie season, he led the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and rebounds with 6.0 rebounds per game.
"Mallorca is a great place to be even though it was difficult to understand the language at first," said Hamilton. "Playing overseas was good for me and I'm glad I made the decision to go to Spain."
Language was not the only barrier to Hamilton's assimilation to international competition.
"There are a few different rules in the European leagues. The lane is bigger and the court markings are different. It is legal to goaltend on defense and jump balls aren't the same either. The 3-point line is also further out from the basket. Most of all, European players are very strong and intelligent. The rules took some getting used to, but I like playing over there."
While in Spain, there was little time to explore his new environment. The league has a rigorous schedule with two practices each day and one game per week. The season lasts eight months, starting in September and continuing until May. Each team plays 34 games per season, facing each team twice. The Liga Española de Baloncesto, established in 1996 is made up of three leagues: Adecco LEB Oro, Adecco LEB Plata and Adecco LEB Bronce. Hamilton competes in the Adecco LEB Oro league.
Although he was thousands of miles away, Hamilton can't help but recall the lessons he learned at St. John's.
"At St. John's I learned how to handle the media," added Hamilton. "There is nothing like media here in New York. St. John's is a great place with great people and it left me well prepared for my future."
Under the direction of head coach Norm Roberts and the St. John's coaching staff, Hamilton developed into an elite college athlete, gaining invitations to compete at the next level.
"Coach Roberts was always on me to work hard," said Hamilton. "I was the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. He always pushed me in practice and it really paid off." "Lamont was a great player for us in his four years here," said Roberts. "He improved every year and ended his career as a first team BIG EAST selection. He did a great job of improving our program."
Hamilton will be spending the remainder of his summer in New York and will return to Spain in early September. He has signed with the Tenerife squad located in the Canary Islands, opposite the main land of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. The team in Tenerife is in the same league that Hamilton competed in last season, the Adecco LEB Oro.
"Spain is a great place to be," said Hamilton. "I look forward to returning there to play again this year."