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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Illinois center Jermaine Hamlin (34) and Purdue's guard Sasha Stefanovic (55) battle for a ball in a NCAA basketball game at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Illinois center Jermaine Hamlin (34) and Purdue's guard Sasha Stefanovic (55) battle for a ball in a NCAA basketball game at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

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Fans will remember him because ...

Hamlin was a surprise late addition to the 2019-20 Illinois roster. The former Lincoln standout committed to the Illini on Aug. 17 and officially signed three days later. Hamlin stepped into his role as backup big man, and his occasional spot minutes allowed the Illini starters to avoid the potential of serious early foul trouble.

Best moment ...

Hamlin set all kinds of career highs in Illinois’ 117-65 victory against Division II Lindenwood on Nov. 26 at State Farm Center in Champaign. The 6-foot-10 freshman center played a career-high 12 minutes and made the most of it. Hamlin finished with eight points, four rebounds, one block and one assist during the convincing nonconference victory.

Brad Underwood says ...

“I love Jermaine. All 7-foot-41 / 2 of his wingspan. His size. His athleticism. He’s very, very quick off the ground. I think he’s way ahead defensively of maybe where he’s at offensively, but I’m excited. I think he gives us something defensively that we haven’t had in that quick-twitch guy that can get off the ground and block shots.”

By the numbers ...

Because Hamlin played sparingly during the 2019-20 season, his advanced stats are a bit more revealing than his basic numbers. Taking into account a smaller sample size, of course, Hamlin’s offensive rebounding percentage (13.7 percent) trailed only fellow freshman big man Kofi Cockburn.

What’s next ...

Hamlin arrived at Illinois as a raw prospect, having only played basketball seriously for four years before his time with the Illini. But he was a toolsy prospect — especially defensively — with his size, length and athleticism. His on-the-job learning this season, plus an offseason to get stronger and better exploit his athleticism, will only help.

From beat writer Scott Richey ...

I was probably most struck by Hamlin during Illinois’ media day last fall. Here was a guy who was headed to a prep school with the thought to reclassify before he received his Illini offer just before school started. He understood the level of opportunity he had been afforded and wanted to make the most of it.

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).