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Hamilton shows off his skills in UConn's triumph over Tulane

POSTED February 22, 2015
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

STORRS – It’s not every day you see a 6-foot-7 player leading a league in rebounding. It’s also not ordinary to see a player score only seven points in a game, yet have an impact just as large as any other competitor on the floor.

UConn’s Daniel Hamilton, however, continues to show he’s not an ordinary player. Predictably, there have a been a few ups and downs in his freshman season, but as his first year as a Husky winds down, his growth as a player may be the team’s most positive story heading into the future.

In Sunday’s 67-60 win over Tulane at Gampel Pavilion, Hamilton showcased his versatility with nine rebounds and nine assists, and assisted on UConn’s final six baskets to seal the victory.

Coming off a career-high 25 points in the loss at Memphis on Thursday, interest was high to see what Hamilton would do for an encore. He didn’t disappoint. His follow-up, though, was just a little different than what most players would draw up.

“Whatever we got to do to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Hamilton, who also finished with three steals and two blocks. “If it’s scoring, passing, rebounding, whatever, I’m going to try to do it.

“I like the ball in my hands, because I can make plays, not only just scoring, but I can make passes and do different stuff.”

His signature pass this season has been the lob to Amida Brimah at the rim. Hamilton found Brimah four times in the final five minutes for hoops, helping lead Brimah to a sizzling 8-of-8 shooting performance with 19 points.

The duo has that connection down pat.

“It comes natural,” noted Hamilton. “I was driving to the hole and was able to draw his man and throw the lob. If his man is not there, I’d take the jumper, but his man committed to me and I threw the lob to him. He just finished everything.”

Hamilton’s ability to bounce back from adversity has also been a big key for him. In the loss against Temple, he missed three free throws in the final seconds of overtime with a chance to tie. Even in his stellar outing at Memphis, he missed a three-pointer at the buzzer down three.

No matter the setback, Hamilton has rebounded, which is clear by just watching his effort. You don’t find yourself at 6-foot-7 and leading the AAC in rebounding (8.9 per contest entering Sunday) by accident.

“It’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “I have to get every rebound. I feel I’m way better now (compared to the start of the season). I’ve learned a lot of stuff from shot selection to defending. I’m watching film and just maturing as a basketball player.”

His coach has noticed.

“It sets you apart at the three spot when you’re rebounding like that,” Kevin Ollie said. “That’s a luxury when you have a core piece that keeps getting better. He’s going to be a great player for us and he’s coming into his own. It’s going to be great to see him develop down the road.”

We’re not breaking any news by saying UConn’s only chance to make the NCAA Tournament is by winning the AAC Tournament in Hartford next month. At 15-11, it’s too late for the Huskies to impress the committee. Hamilton’s growth will play a big part if they are to sweep through the league and earn the automatic NCAA berth.

“He’s a very versatile player,” Ryan Boatright said after scoring 16 points and swiping four steals. “He’s playing his role. He’s doing all the right things and playing within the system and doing everything he needs to do to become a great player.

“He’s taking the challenge and stepping up to be a scorer, a facilitator, a rebounder, whatever we need him to do to be the No. 2 guy behind me. He did a tremendous job of that tonight and once he got going, it opened up the game for me.”

Nothing at this point is coming easy for the Huskies, who found themselves trailing in the second half to a Tulane team which has now lost seven of eight games.

It probably won’t be easy at 12-15 East Carolina on Wednesday, and certainly will not be in their final three regular season games against SMU, Memphis, and Temple.

They have to find ways, no matter how, if they are to salvage this tough season. Hamilton, clearly, has shown he’s willing to do anything.

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