LINCOLN — A movie now in theaters called "The Upside" would've been a good title for a film about Jermaine Hamlin.
The 6-foot-10 Lincoln senior, who didn't get serious about basketball until his freshman year, has a tremendous upside that college coaches are giving careful consideration.
Among those making scholarship offers have been North Dakota, South Dakota, Purdue Fort Wayne and Eastern Illinois. Saint Louis and Southern Illinois have also shown interest.
Hamlin hopes to choose a college by the April signing period. He dreams of playing professionally, but wants a degree to fall back on.
Hamlin hopes to find a program that will help him improve, but also afford him playing time. He grew up in Chicago where his family's frequent moves delayed his start in basketball.
"I played in sixth grade, but the season got canceled due to some violence," said Hamlin, whose 6-foot father, Steve, played for Chicago Simeon.
The second oldest of five brothers, Hamlin moved to Lincoln in eighth grade, but got cut from the basketball team.
"He's gotten better," said Lincoln coach Neil Alexander. "He's a big kid and most big kids, it takes longer to grow into that body and he's one of them.
"His coordination is getting much better. His toughness is getting better. His eye-hand coordination — everything is improving. He's made great strides from four years ago when he started playing basketball."
Hamlin averages 13.4 points and 6.3 rebounds for the No. 6-state ranked Railsplitters, who are 19-2 overall and 9-0 in the Apollo Conference.
"I feel pretty good about myself, but there are some games I wish I could do more," said Hamlin, who shoots .689 from the field and .718 from the free throw line. "I'm not going to have the greatest night every single game."
Hamlin has blocked a team-leading 24 shots. His shooting range extends to 15 feet.
"He's got a nice touch for a big guy," Alexander said.
Among Hamlin's best games was an 18-point, 12-rebound effort during a 46-44 overtime win against visiting Rock Island on Saturday. He had 24 points and made all 12 of his free throws in a 52-47 win over Granite City.
"He's played pretty consistent throughout the year," Alexander said. "Even when he's not scoring, just his presence in the paint is something else."
Alexander, who has a 42-year coaching record of 824-394, believes the 220-pound Hamlin could carry another 25 pounds that would make him even more effective.
"He's got a great body," Alexander said. "He's got to continue to get better and work. He gets better every day."
Hamlin opens opportunities for teammates. Kaden Froebe, a 6-2 junior, averages 15.7 points and Will Eward, a 6-3 junior, 10.5.
"Those are great offensive players," Hamlin says. "Kaden can attack the basket. Will's doing really good from the 3-point line (making 45 of 97 for 49.5 percent). So those are good options every time down the floor."
Other starters are 6-0 junior Kameron Whiteman (7.0 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore Dylan Singleton (6.4).
"Our kids are finding that we'll feed him a little bit, then we'll have the perimeter open," Alexander said. "You've got to decide where you're going to cover, inside or outside."
Alexander considers Hamlin a good teammate whose soft-spoken nature fits nicely into the team chemistry. How far he climbs in basketball "is up to him," according to Alexander.
As one of two seniors, Hamlin has helped the young Railers mature. In November, Alexander expected an "OK" season.
"We just had to put things together and I think we've done that," he said. "The kids are playing together well and doing the things we normally do."
Class 3A Lincoln, which outscores foes 57.7 to 43.5, lost to Class 4A schools Rockford East (64-55) and Collinsville (40-34). Hamlin said there was an upside to those setbacks.
"Those two losses were more like eye-openers to the fact we're not going to beat every team that we play and we've got to come to work every day," he said.