Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hamilton's Composure Strong Point for Gators

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hamilton's Composure Strong Point for Gators

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer

GAINESVILLE -- The knee injury Justin Hamilton sustained against Georgia on Jan. 17, 2001 was the defining moment of his basketball career. But to hear the senior point guard from Sarasota talk about his torn left anterior cruciate ligament, it was nothing more than a mosquito bite.

Hamilton doesn't downplay the seriousness of the injury or his rehabilitation, it's just that he discusses it the same way he would place an order at the drive-through: slowly, clearly and without any emotion.

"It's something that's imprinted in my head," Hamilton said as the 11th-ranked Gators (12-2, 1-0) prepared for today's Southeastern Conference game against Georgia (9-3, 1-0) at the O'Connell Center. "It had an impact on my basketball life, so it's something I'll definitely always remember. But again, I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to play on Saturday."

That's the way Hamilton talks about anything: simply, matter-of-factly and -- in the world of today's chest-thumping, attention-starved athlete -- quite boringly.

"I just think it's important to stay calm and collected at all times," he said.

Hamilton has never lost his self-control on the court, and he says he can't remember the last time he did anywhere else, either.

UF coach Billy Donovan believes that, because he's around Hamilton probably more than anyone else on campus.

"Justin is very, very mature, and I think Justin is the closest thing to a coach," Donovan said. "He doesn't get too high or too low. He doesn't get too emotional. He realizes that he's going to evaluate himself and his team on what happens at the end of the year, and he's not going to get overly excited one way or another with whatever happens."

If there was one event that tested Hamilton's easy-going nature, it was his knee injury. In a close game against the Bulldogs at the O'Connell Center in January 2001, Hamilton stole the ball and was going in for an easy layup when his left knee buckled. …

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