« Heat loses out on Camby; Heat notes; Dolphins quarterback news and notes; Canes, Marlins | Main | Lewis signing with Heat; Summer-league microscope on Cole, Pittman, Harris »

A look at the Heat's newest big man project

With Marcus Camby opting to join the Knicks (through a sign-and-trade), the Heat will continue canvassing the landscape for another center to supplement Chris Bosh (who very likely will remain at center next season), Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman.

The Heat eventually could add a veteran who's forced to settle for the $1.3 million league minimum, re-sign Eddy Curry (not sure why either party would be interested in that), or hope that Jarvis Varnado or Justin Hamilton proves worthy of a roster spot.

Pittman, Varnado and Hamilton will be a part of the Heat's 16-player summer league roster headed to Las Vegas this weekend.

Also on the roster: Terrel Harris, Norris Cole, second-year former Northwestern State guard Trey Gilder, former Heat second-round pick Robert Dozier (a 6-9 forward), third-year former Washington State shooting guard Kyle Weaver and eight undrafted rookies: former UM forward Adrian Thomas,  Texas guard D'Covan Brown, Georgetown guard Jason Clark, St. John's center Lamont Hamilton, St. John's guard Dwight Hardy, Boston University guard John Holland, Duquesne forward Damian Saunders and Loyola Marymount guard Drew Viney.

Heat coach David Fizdale will coach the team. All the Heat games will be televised on NBA TV.

Here's a look at Hamilton, the Heat's only pick in last month's draft:

# # #

Being drafted by the NBA champion was so thrilling, so unexpected, for former LSU center Justin Hamilton that when “I woke up the next day, I wasn’t sure the draft really happened.”

Hamilton, selected 45th overall, will join 15 other players on the Heat’s summer league team next week in Las Vegas. But how long he will be wearing a Heat uniform remains very much in question.

Team president Pat Riley said the Heat might stash Hamilton in Europe for a year. And even if there is a trans-Atlantic odyssey in his future, there’s no assurance it will eventually end up with Hamilton in a Heat uniform.

“If I can help the team out, I will be here,” said Hamilton, who will get married after his Summer League works ends. “If I need improvement, I’m not sure. They like the way I shoot the ball and how hard I work.”

For perspective, former Memphis forward Robert Dozier (selected by Miami with the 60th pick in 2009) and forward Jarvis Varnado (picked 41st by the Heat in 2010) are still awaiting their NBA opportunity. Both are also members of the Heat team that will play five games over seven days in Las Vegas, beginning Sunday. And Riley said the Heat wants to try Varnado at center.

But while Dozier and Varnado are 6-9, Hamilton has the advantage of being a seven-footer.

“He has quick feet, big, takes up a lot of space,” Riley said. “Not an above the rim player. Has a nice touch from 15 feet. Smart player, played in a good program. A big body that can go into the pipeline with our other bigs and keep developing.”

Hamilton averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore at Iowa State, then transferred to LSU, where he averaged 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a junior, shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the line. Hamilton graduated from LSU with a sociology degree and decided to turn pro early, even though nobody projected him as a first-round pick.

Hamilton, who weighs 260 pounds, evaluates his game thusly: “I’m a skilled player that can shoot the ball pretty well. I’m a smart player on offense and defense. I’m never going to quit. I take up a lot of room. [But] I know the NBA is a whole other level and I want to get a bigger body and get stronger.”

Partly because he lacks a developed post game and dynamic athleticism, Hamilton wasn’t listed among ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects. But he insists that didn’t bother him.

“Ever since I started playing basketball in high school, that’s how it has been. Everyone has kind of written me off,” he said. “It’s about what the NBA guys thought I was, not what everybody else thought.”

Hamilton’s father, Larry, was a standout in football and wrestling at BYU, and his mother Tami was a two-time All-Conference volleyball player at BYU and holder of the NCAA record for most assists in a season, set in 1986.

No matter how long Hamilton’s Heat experience lasts, he will relish it.

“It’s great to be chosen by the world champions,” he said. “When I worked out for them, I really enjoyed it. I’m really excited and happy to be a part of this. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go play summer league and then have a wedding.”

Hamilton said he is securing a Croatian passport not only because his motive is a native of Croatia, but also “to make sure I had backup plans.” He might need that backup plan, but his play in the next two weeks will go a long way toward determining that.

### For more Heat notes, see our last post or my Heat notebook on the sports home page.