JOHNNY Hamilton, a 24-year-old who was born and raised in Rio Claro, signed his first professional basketball contract with the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.
Hamilton and Pistons agreed on a partially-guaranteed one-year deal after he impressed at the NBA summer league.
Non-guaranteed contracts are typically given out to players who are drafted in the second round, fringe players or those whose who may be beyond their prime. They are paid for each game they are named on a roster and can be cut by a team at any time.
Following the signing Hamilton, a seven-foot-tall centre, took to several of his social media accounts to post: “What a day to be alive. Thanks to the almighty, my family and coaches for having my back and helping me grow into the man I am today. I couldn’t do it without y’all.
“Thanks to the @detroitpistons for granting my first opportunity to be a Professional Athlete. I look forward to this year as I take on a new chapter in my life. I also want to thank everyone that had something to do with me getting to this chapter. Whether negative or positive contributions y’all were all part of God’s plan for me.”
According to official fan website detroitbadboys.com: “Since the deal is partially guaranteed, Hamilton is likely just a training camp body who the Pistons will try to sign to play for the Grand Rapids Drive once the season starts. The Pistons did not opt to use their final two-way contract on him which likely means they feel he needs a bit more development.”
Following a two-year stint at Virginia Tech where he was seldom used, Hamilton transferred to the University of Texas-Arlington where he got more experience with playing time.
Last season in Arlington, Hamilton averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game last season.
He then challenged the summer league where in just 12.7 minutes per game, he averaged four points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
He can now train and potentially play alongside experienced campaigners in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin.
The news was welcomed but not very surprising to his mother, Princess Hamilton, who said this move was one he dreamt of and had every intention of pursuing.
“Since he (Johnny) was a little child, this is what he said to me as his mom. He say ‘mammy, you know, one day I want to be an NBA star.’ Well, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t see it (then), although I never doubt my children,” she said. “I hold on to things. But, in all his growing up, you never see him trying to play basketball. He would always play the football. So, you wouldn’t see that. But, in my heart, I know that one day maybe that dream will come true.”
She added: “Because, that was a dream he had. That was a dream he has since small. Sometimes my children have dreams, and sometimes as parents, we have to look at that, because we might just throw it aside but I keep looking at him all the time, even when he started, I was with him right through. I would go to his practice.”
Giving some further insight into the move she said: “He was also invited to Mavericks in Dallas. He ended up doing two days of training with them and unfortunately he was not able to go to Detroit. But when he went to the summer camp, I think they gave him a space to play with the team for the summer and there, he was able to grant favour from the team.”
Princess added that she and the rest of his family were happy that his efforts were paying off.
“You know, I can’t explain the feeling but we are happy, the children, everyone is really, really happy for him, because he has worked hard. It was a struggle, but he kept pushing himself to this extent... he kept on climbing.”
Hamilton (Johnny) comes from a family of basketballers. His brother Jesse is 6’11” and plays locally for Police.
His father, standing at 6’7” was also a competitive player, who went by the nickname “Cornbread”.
Johnny was an avid footballer in his youth, according to Princess, but as he got older and grew taller, he abandoned the sport to pick up basketball. “He started basketball late, around 16 when was at St Augustine (Senior Secondary),” she said.