In a post-summer feature provided by Texas Longhorns basketball, head coach Shaka Smart had some encouraging things to say about a developing frontcourt player, sophomore forward Royce Hamm Jr.
“He got a lot stronger, put on some really good weight with muscle. He’s as bouncy and explosive as he’s ever been... I’m really excited about his progress.” Smart said.
When asked about only averaging 5.3 minutes per game during his freshman season, “I don’t look at it as, ‘I wasted a year,’” Hamm said. “I look at it as a learning experience. I learned from watching Mo (Bamba) play, from watching Dylan (Osetkowski) play. Of course it bothered me, but I didn’t let it get me down too much.”
Compared to most college basketball players, Hamm is a relative neophyte — he originally believed, like many impoverished youths, that football was the way out. It wasn’t until eighth grade that Hamm decided to take up basketball. Though he was 5’11 at the time, he added five inches before he enrolled in high school and quickly became an athletic commodity.
“He’s probably one of the most improved players I’ve ever coached in my life. He went from an eighth grader with no basketball experience to one of the top 100 players in the country,” said high school coach Cornelius Mitchell.
As a high school senior, Hamm was listed at 6’8 and 215 pounds. With the help of Daniel Roose’s summer strength and conditioning program, Hamm is now up to a steady 240 pounds heading into his sophomore season at Texas. With a more muscular and athletic build, he’s ready to turn the corner and take that next step towards being a contributor.
As a freshman, Hamm appeared in 17 games. He averaged 0.6 points per game on just 11 shot attempts and 1.4 rebounds per game. Despite the minimal playing time, he provided quality energy on the defensive end.
Towards the end of the season, when guard Eric Davis Jr. was held out of play due to NCAA allegations and star freshman forward Mohammed Bamba was dealing with a toe injury, Hamm saw some playing time at season’s most crucial point as the Longhorns were pushing towards an NCAA tournament berth.
The free-throw aspect of his game is still a work in progress, as Hamm made only seven of 15 attempts (46.7%) from the stripe last season. It’s always a tough task for a bench player to come out cold and hit those free throws at a high rate, but this is a small way to earn more playing time.
With the departure of Bamba and multiple incoming freshman frontcourt players still learning the game, expect Hamm to compete for minutes at the power forward position right away. As he continues to learn the aspects of in-game action, he will have to work his way into the rotation.
Coming out of Aldine Davis high school in the Houston area, Hamm was a composite four-star recruit. He was ranked No. 90 nationally, No. 20 at the power forward position, and was the No. 6 prospect in the state of Texas, according to the 247Sport Composite rankings.
Now, Hamm will have to prove that he’s worthy of playing time or fall behind in a rotation that will also add two talented freshmen bigs in the versatile Kamaka Hepa and high-flying, high-upside Jaxson Hayes.
Can Hamm show more comfort and aptitude on the offensive end? Can he become a consistent and quality presence in fullcourt pressures or halfcourt defense? Can he carve out a niche as a rebounder, defender, and energy guy?
The answers to those questions will determine whether Hamm can make his mark in Smart’s program and earn increased playing time this season.