The addition of 6-foot-6 junior college recruit Blake Hamilton adds to what looks like an athletic cast of wing players for the University at Buffalo men's basketball team.
Hamilton, from Mount San Antonio College in California, is the third junior college recruit for new coach Nate Oats this spring. That made perfect sense for the Bulls, who return the Mid-American Conference player of the year in power forward Justin Moss, who will be a senior. Oats has a team that can win now, and he was compelled to supplement it with veteran talent. The loss of star guard Shannon Evans made that a necessity, along with the decision to verbal commit Maurice O'Field to follow Evans to Arizona State and departure of 6-5 swingman Torian Graham. He's expected to transfer after spending last semester sitting out and attending classes at UB.
Those around the UB program seem particularly excited about Hamilton. Here's what his junior college coach, Clark Maloney, told The News about him:
"He’s a big-time player. He’s going to bring a lot to their team. He’s a winner. High IQ, a high skill-set student-athlete. He’s a combo guard. He can play multiple spots. He can play the 1, 2, 3, 4 if necessary. He’s a player. Players just play, you don’t really pigeon-hole them in a position."
Hamilton averaged 13.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for Mount San Antonio last season.
"He can create off the dribble, get to the rim, make plays for himself and his teammates," Maloney said. "Defensively he’d make a bog block, get a steal, win a 50-50 ball. He’s a really good passer."
California junior colleges don't play in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, so scouts have to go to California to see them. For that reason, some California Juco players tend to be under-recruited by East Coast teams. UB assistant Bryan Hodgson went to see Hamilton play in a tournament during an April recruiting period.
Losing Evans and his 15.4 points a game was a hit to the UB offense. The Bulls obviously hope they now have enough scoring options -- with the addition of Hamilton and 6-5 perimeter shooter Willie Conner, in particular -- to complement Moss and returning shooting guard Jarryn Skeete. If all of UB's plans pan out, they will have more scoring options than last year. Hamilton's size could be very helpful in defending powerful MAC rival Central Michigan, with its big perimeter shooters.
Fordham was an East Coast school that was after Hamilton (which admittedly won't wow UB fans). He had been recruited by Northern Arizona (his first destination), Hawaii, New Mexico State and Cal-Northridge out of high school.
"It was a very good get for Buffalo, especially at that late of a date," Maloney said. "He’d been recruited by the University of Pacific, Hawaii, and quite a few schools. Blake was going to go to the best fit for him. Buffalo is getting him at the right time. He has figured out his importance as far as what he brings to the program, on the court and off the court. He’s a really good student, like a 3.25 GPA. He graduated early from here for us. He understands his path now. So that’s why this decision wasn’t really about location, it was about his comfort level."