LSU's chances of earning a bid to the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament took a jolt Thursday with the announcement that starting center Justin Hamilton is bypassing his senior season to put his name in the NBA draft.
Hamilton, who played one year with the Tigers after transferring from Iowa State, averaged 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Hamilton earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors from the league's coaches.
"I will graduate next month and I am getting married this summer," Hamilton said. "I am ready to take the next step in my life. I would like to thank everyone that has helped me along the way and especially the fans here at LSU."
Hamilton is not projected to be chosen in the NBA draft, which consists of two rounds. Therefore, it is more likely that Hamilton will end up playing professionally in Europe.
"Justin has done a good job for the LSU basketball program," coach Trent Johnson said. "His development from the time he arrived has been very impressive.
"He will graduate from LSU this semester and will have his degree in hand. I and the members of our program wish him nothing but the best in his future."
The Tigers will now lose four scholarship players from last season's team which finished with an 18-15 record and lost a first-round NIT game against Oregon - Hamilton and seniors Chris Bass, Storm Warren and Malcolm White.
LSU has seven returning scholarship players - senior Eddie Ludwig; juniors Jalen Courtney, Ralston Turner and Andre Stringer and sophomores Anthony Hickey, John Isaac and Johnny O'Bryant. The only returning full-time post player is O'Bryant.
Hamilton is the first Tigers player in four years to give up eligibility for the NBA. Anthony Randolph left LSU after his freshman season in 2008.
Hamilton is the third Johnson signee to not complete his eligibility with the Tigers. Aaron Dotson and Matt Derenbecker transferred to Utah and Dayton, respectively, after the 2011 season.
The spring signing period for basketball begins next week. LSU signed one player in November - wing Malik Morgan from River Ridge (La.) Curtis. With Hamilton's departure, the Tigers have five available scholarships.