As he came to the bench, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell gave him a hug and patted him on the back of the head. The very solid career of Hamilton was over.
Unfortunately for him and his fellow Tigers, it was in a 78-73 defeat at the hands of West Virginia in the NIT championship game Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
"It really hurt," Hamilton said of walking off the floor. "I just wanted sit there and stay there as long as I could. I almost didn't even want to walk out of the locker room. It was the last time I was going to be with the guys and with coach, so it hurts."
Hamilton leaves Clemson as the school's all-time leader in steals and fifth all-time for the entire ACC. As a junior, he became the first Tiger to ever be named to the first-team All Defensive team in the ACC.
He is the only player in school history to have three seasons where he had more steals than fouls. He is one of four players in Clemson history to score 1,000 points and have 350 assists.
Hamilton ranks in the top five in school history in minutes played, games played and games started.
"I am (satisfied with my career)," said Hamilton, who heads to Atlanta this weekend to participate in the NABC All-Star game as part of the Final Four festivities. "I'm disappointed that we didn't win the championship game, but I was given the opportunity to play under Coach Purnell.
"It's been great. I'm proud to say that I'm a Clemson Tiger and a part of this men's basketball team."
Not so neutral
Even though the game was played in New York City, it felt like it was in Morgantown, W.V., with all the Mountaineer fans that made the trip.
For every one Clemson fan, there had to be at least 20 to 25 West Virginia fans. Even the state's governor showed.
"It definitely didn't feel like we had home-court advantage in any way," Hamilton said. "There were a lot more West Virginia fans than Clemson fans."
Former Tigers cornerback and current New York Jets player Justin Miller was in attendance wearing a Clemson hooded sweatshirt.
After the game, he tried to convince Hamilton to stay the night in New York rather than fly out with the team Thursday night. Miller said he'd by Hamilton a plane ticket in the morning. There's no word on what Hamilton opted to do.
Almost empty bench
Purnell emptied his bench in the final minute to let almost everyone get into the game and experience playing at MSG. The only player not to see action was Julius Powell.
The Clemson contingency let out a big roar when Chris Poole, a walk-on senior, hit about a 25-foot 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to play.
Purnell and West Virginia coach John Beilein began Thursday morning by ringing the bell to start the trading at the NASDAQ Exchange in Times Square. The two then signed the ledger and had their entire session displayed on the JumboTron in Times Square.
It is a tradition that the two coaches in the NIT title game start their championship day by ringing the trading bell. South Carolina coach Dave Odom had done it so many times that he actually sent players to do it because it was such old hat for him.
Insurmountable 12-point lead
When West Virginia held a 12-point lead at halftime, it was clearly a bad sign for the Tigers.
Clemson has not comeback to win a game in which it trailed by at least 12 points since it beat Penn State in 2001.
NIT Notebook: Vernon Hamilton Reflects
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