Finally, finally, Hammons took strides toward his lottery pick potential. Yet, he still has a long way to go. Some scouts have him projected as a late second-round selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. The center could eventually become a high pick in the first round.
Hammons said after Purdue's season-ending loss to Ohio State that he has yet to reach a decision on returning to school next season. There's plenty to consider.
In the past year, Hammons dropped 40 pounds off his 7-foot frame, got in condition enough to play a career-best 38 minutes in Purdue's season finale, and began to bring those highlight reel moments more consistently.
Hammons became a dominating big man in the Big Ten, showing the confidence it takes to battle for every rebound. He rarely took a play off, the greatest change from his freshman season.
On the campaign, Hammons posted 10.8 points and 7.4 boards per game, each increasing from his first year in the college game. But the progress is shown in the effort, not the numbers.
After Hammons logged 16 points, 14 rebounds in 36 minutes against Iowa, he was asked if this is now a consistent mark.
"Yeah, I just did it," he quickly replied.
Confidence is now part of Hammons' repertoire, and it reflects in his fight in the paint. The big man believes he's the best in the conference and is ready to scrap with anyone who's a threat to that.
The key now for Hammons is consistency with the mental facet of the game. He must avoid silly mistakes like lane violations and fumbled rebounds, issues which cost Purdue on several occasions. He must work to be in position for rebounds, learning the intricate details of playing the post.
Brantley, the former Boilermaker center and first-year assistant, may be the best influence for Hammons. He's a symbol of success through work ethic, the primary reason Painter brought him aboard to the program. Brantley works closely with Hammons in practice and sits aside him on the bench during games.
One more year with the Boilermakers' coaching staff will bring Hammons a long way. More hard-fought buckets and rebounds in the Big Ten will take his game further.
Right now, Hammons is not ready to play in the NBA. At the very best, he would be a project for any coach and executive. The best place for him to work out the wrinkles in his game is at Mackey Arena.
Big paychecks and a bright NBA future ride on this decision. Hammons better consider it carefully.