A.J. Hammons visited Illinois with his high school team last summer. At the time, he was a little sluggish due to being out of condition. But he has worked hard to get in better shape, and he says the effort is paying off.
"I've lost about 20 pounds. Yeah, it feels better. I'm a little faster now."
Perhaps it was the weight loss, but he looks like he is now taller than his listed height of 6'-10".
"I think so, but maybe it's just because of the Afro. I think I'm still growing. I hope so. I'm around 6'-10"-6'-11"."
Carmel had a good season, but Hammons wasn't satisfied.
"We did okay, but we lost in the last round of the sectionals. We lost one of our best players. We tried to push through, but they got us."
He and his teammates believe better days are ahead, and they are working hard to make their dreams into reality.
"We're gonna be pretty good. We've got a good squad. Our point guard is pretty good right now. Me, I'm just trying to get in shape, trying to finish under the basket."
His Spiece Indy Stars 17 and Under AAU squad is good also. He gets a little overmatched playing with older players as tall as him, but he is there for a reason. They advanced to the semifinals of the Spiece Run n' Slam Classic tournament in Fort Wayne 4/30-5/2/10, but they lost to Meanstreets and their blossoming star Anthony Davis.
"They just outhustled us. They're long and lanky, and they play a lot of big guys at one time."
For much of the game, the Spiece Indy Stars had the 6'-5" DeJuan Marrero, another Illini target, as their second biggest player on the court. They needed more size to counter Meanstreets, but they also could have used their superstar guard Marquis Teague, who was attending his high school prom.
"We don't really need him that much though."
Maybe not, but they could use more practice according to Hammons.
"This wasn't our first loss this spring. We lost in Milwaukee. We don't really come together to practice, we just come and play. It's hard to keep our chemistry together like that."
Indiana has already offered the young big man a scholarship, and more will be on hand in the near future. Hammons mentions five teams he is considering strongly at this time.
"Minnesota, Ohio State, Illinois, Xavier and IU."
Illinois coach Bruce Weber made a trip over to Carmel in March to watch him with his high school team.
"Illinois is a good school, to tell you the truth. They have an impressive team, but I don't really know that much about them, to tell you the truth."
Hammons has the body build to be a beast inside once he becomes confident and more assertive. He is intelligent and a good team player, so his future is bright. Especially since the young giant has two more years of high school ball in front of him.