For Hammons, it's all coming together

A.J. Hammons' freshman season was a disappointment as inconsistent player kept him from reaching his potential. This offseason, the rising sophomore center has dedicated himself to improvement and the breaks have begun to go his way.

When last we saw A.J. Hammons, an indelible image was left. The freshman center walked off Keady Court after a loss in the CBI, and he was angry.

The visible frustration which Hammons had displayed wasn't that of a head case or a problem player. It wasn't something about minutes or statistics. Purdue's disappointing season had come to a dreadful conclusion and Hammons was fuming.

Hammons' first season will be defined by its moments. There were lows, like when he missed the bus to a game against Northwestern, and also highs, like posting 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench in that game. His emotions were released in spurts—see the emphatic dunk during a 37-point loss to Indiana as an example. Still, Hammons lacked the motivation to reach his potential.

With his raw talent alone, Hammons has the prospects to be an NBA Lottery pick. As a freshman, his work ethic prevented him from reaching that. If Hammons had any intention of leaving to the NBA after one season, his inconsistent play crushed that.

In those final games, Hammons began diving to the floor for loose balls and hustling back on defense. While his minutes were still limited, he became a more rounded player—bringing abilities and effort together.

It finally clicked for Hammons. The fire was finally lit. That's why he appeared to be so devastated after that season-ending defeat from Santa Clara.

Days after that final game, Hammons met with head coach Matt Painter as part of the routine post-season meetings. This year, the discussions were one-sided. Painter was brutally honest while hoping his players—as he termed it—register on the give-a-damn meter.

Hammons has responded the right way. He has committed himself to improving with work in the gym. Teammates like workhorse Rapheal Davis have helped to serve as a positive influence.

A productive offseason earned great reward on Monday, as Hammons was invited to the World University Games training camp—just one of 29 players added to the roster. His head coach, Matt Painter, likely had great influence in this selection as part of the team committee.

The experience at training camp later this month will be beneficial for Hammons. He'll be surrounded by some of the game's elite players in an incredibly competitive environment. If all goes well, Hammons will join the final United States roster in Kazan, Russia for the tournament.

It's finally coming together for Hammons. The work ethic is there and the breaks are going his way. Next season can't come soon enough.

After a wasted year, Hammons is dedicated to reaching his extraordinary potential.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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