As Hammons limped around the Carver-Hawkeye Arena court, it hit him that there was no leaving the game; not with Jay Simpson out of the lineup and limited depth on the bench. It had to be Hammons leading the way for Purdue on both ends of the court. He decided to tough it out and let the pain hurt later.
"I just had to play for my team, because I knew I didn't really have a sub," Hammons said after Purdue's 83-76 loss to Iowa.
Even in a loss, Sunday's game marked one of Hammons' best, most consistent performances as a Boilermaker. He tallied a double-double of 16 points, 14 rebound and four blocks, numbers becoming more of a commonplace for the sophomore. But that wasn't what stood out on the stat sheet.
Hammons played a career-high 36 minutes and had zero turnovers—a great change for the big man often prone to fatigue and mistakes.
"He showed a lot better conditioning," said senior forward Errick Peck. "He's playing well. He's kind of the key to our team. When he plays well, we usually win."
Purdue has gone more than a week without freshman center Jay Simpson, who collapsed during the Boilermakers' loss at Nebraska. Tests are still being run on the 7-footer and no word has returned on his condition.
Without Simpson in the rotation, Travis Carroll is the only other option at center. This means that Hammons must stay out of foul trouble and produce in big minutes each game. Sunday was a strong indicator he can deliver on this.
"Him just staying in there and fighting, I thought he did a good job for us," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "He's made some strides."
Hammons has averaged 10.6 points per game—even with his mark from last season—and 7.4 boards. In addition, he has recorded 85 blocks on the season, putting him only behind Boilermaker legend Joe Barry Carroll for Purdue's single-season mark.
Production has never been the problem for Hammons. It's all about consistency. So can he go for 36 minutes each game?
"Yeah, I just did it," Hammons said with a chuckle.
"I've got to step up, then somebody else has to step up, to give us big minutes."
Slimmed down and in condition, Hammons has shown positive signs for the future.