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DePaul rolls in opener behind freshman Tommy Hamilton

Updated: December 11, 2013 6:50AM

Tommy Hamilton IV didn’t play in his junior year at Whitney Young because of a knee injury, and games in his senior year at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., came against whatever junior colleges would play it.

No one who saw him in his first game Saturday for DePaul would have guessed it.

The 6-10 freshman center scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had two steals in the Blue Demons’ 96-58 victory against Grambling State at McGrath-Phillips Arena. It was the season opener for both teams.

The son of former King star and NBA player Thomas Hamilton featured spin moves under the basket and an 8-for-11 performance from the free-throw line.

‘‘But I left a lot of free throws out there and some rebounds and some 50-50 balls,’’ he said.

Hamilton knows DePaul long has needed help inside.

‘‘I wanted to take on that challenge,’’ he said of committing to the Demons. ‘‘I thank my teammates for helping me each day. I’m a young guy with a lot of responsibility, but the guys are encouraging me every day.’’

So is strength and conditioning coach Mac Calloway, who has helped Hamilton shed more than 20 pounds, from 288 to 266.

‘‘Mac and I talk every hour of the day about what I’m eating,’’ a smiling Hamilton said. ‘‘I’m pretty comfortable now, but the lighter I get, the better. It’s now just turning more fat to muscle.’’

Hamilton and a new corps of big men have allowed senior forward Cleveland Melvin to move to the wing, and he showed off his range by making all five of his three-pointers and scoring 17 points.

‘‘The big thing offensively is Cleve can get comfortable [shooting] now,’’ coach Oliver Purnell said. ‘‘And it allows us to be a better rebounding team. We have some bodies that we can throw around the lane.’’

DePaul outrebounded the Tigers, who were 0-28 last season, 53-37.

‘‘Clearly, the competition will step up as the season goes along,’’ said Purnell, who used all 14 players on his roster. ‘‘But we told our guys this was going to be about us and our approach to our home opener.

‘‘I thought Tommy was clearly relaxed. . . . He didn’t have the deer-in-the-headlights [look] you could have in a first game.’’


Twitter: @toniginnetti

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