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June 3, 2013
The difference between good and very good, or even great, might be a fine line for Boilermaker center A.J. Hammons.
The 7-footer's size and ability alone made him an instant-impact player for Purdue as a freshman and a selection to the Big Ten's All-Freshman team. His numbers - Hammons averaged 10.6 points and six rebounds and blocked 67 shots, second-most in the league - stacked up favorably against most of the top post players in the conference.
But as much as Hammons did as a freshman for Purdue, he left his rookie season wanting more. His coaches and teammates obviously did, too.
Since, Hammons said he's reflected on the year that was and realized some things about what it takes to be successful at this level.
"My first year I noticed that the other bigs were in better shape than I was," Hammons said following a workout late last week. "I also watched a little bit of film and noticed my footwork, I had OK footwork, but when I watched it I felt like it was horrible. I feel like I need to work on my defense and my lateral movement, pretty much being more explosive on the court than just standing around and clogging up the paint."
The first part is the important one, because it would in turn lead to improvement in all other areas.
Improved conditioning - and the added energy and stamina that potentially would come with it - is critical.
At last check, Hammons said he weighed 259 pounds, after playing at as much as 275 last season.
He admits, too, that his dietary and sleep habits from last season could stand to change, a lesson he said he learned during the season as he struggled to keep off weight he'd shed prior and battled periodic spells of lethargy.
Urgency is an emphasis for Hammons, too, something he's trying to establish this summer and something that'll be tested later this month when he tries out for USA Basketball's World University Games team in Colorado Springs. As one of the 29 college standouts invited, obviously his competitiveness will be put to the test.
"I think I have some great potential, but I just have to put in the work for it," Hammons said prior to the announcement of his USA Basketball opportunity. "I have the talent, but I might get beat out if somebody puts in more hard work than me. I have to work on that."
Consistency is Hammons' goal now, both in effort and productivity, after he was erratic on both fronts as a freshman.
"His deal was that he has to be consistent," associate head coach Jack Owens said. "If he can just be consistent night in and night out, he can be a special player."
Experience should - should - help.
"I wouldn't say (it would happen) overnight, because everything takes work," Hammons said. "I feel like I need more confidence on the court. Last season I got the ball and I really didn't know what move to go to, I would just wait or I'd already have a move planned and it wouldn't work out.
"I just need to get more comfortable and take my time with the ball instead of trying to rush through everything, which showed my immaturity on the court."
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