‘The Hammer’ excels on two courts

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Jennifer Hamson goes for a kill as she towers over her opponents. (Bryan Pearson)

When you think of someone who is six feet, seven inches, someone who is an All-American in basketball and volleyball, someone who led BYU’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament and someone who was drafted 23rd in the WNBA draft, you usually imagine someone who was born with a volleyball and basketball in their hands. But for BYU’s Jennifer Hamson that isn’t exactly true.

“I started in ninth grade,” Hamson said. “I did gymnastics before that, and then I decided I was too tall; so I decided to tryout for the basketball and volleyball team in high school.”

Despite Hamson’s late interest in basketball and volleyball she was born with some natural athletic ability. Hamson’s mom, Tresa Spaulding Hamson, was an All-American basketball player for BYU and is the second all-time leading scorer at BYU. Hamson also has an uncle and two aunts who played collegiate volleyball.

Hamson’s dad, David Hamson, attributes her ability to pick up basketball and volleyball so quickly because she is a “smart girl.” He told of a story in which Hamson was on the bus heading down to Spanish Fork for a basketball game. She called her mom and told her she needed a new post move because there was a tall girl on the Spanish Fork team. Hamson’s mom talked her through a new post move over the phone, and sure enough she used the move during the game.

After being recruited for both sports by BYU, Utah, Oklahoma and Louisville, Hamson decided to play both basketball and volleyball at BYU. Being a dual sport student athlete is not an easy thing to do, especially when the two sports seasons overlap.

“There were a couple of days that I would play two games in the same day,” Hamson said. “You just do what you can, and the coaches worked out which games I played.”

Hamson took on a heavy load with dual sports. The volleyball season has at least 30 games, starts at the end of August and goes to the beginning or end of December depending on how the team performs in the postseason. The basketball season also has at least 30 games and starts in the middle of November, going until mid to late March. That’s more than 60 games in a seven-month span with at least half of the games being on the road. On top of all that, she’s a student.

“School was hard, that’s for sure,” Hamson said. “But I had a lot of support, and I just worked hard and got it done.”

Hamson’s dad is most impressed with how she has been able to maintain balance with the two sports, getting good grades and keeping up her spirituality. Hamson graduated last April with a degree in exercise science and is currently doing post back study during the volleyball season.

Last year Hamson sat out the volleyball season and focused on basketball. She had an outstanding season, where she averaged 17.7 points a game, 11.5 rebounds a game and 147 total blocks. Hamson won the West Cost Conference Player of the Year Award and got All-WCC first team, leading the Cougars to the Sweet Sixteen as a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament. Hamson and her teammates gave the undefeated and eventual champions, the UConn Huskies, one of the toughest battles of their season.

After Hamson’s special season, the Los Angeles Sparks drafted her 23rd overall in the WNBA draft.

“I told the draft before that I was going to play a season of volleyball before I would play in the WNBA, if I was going to do that,” Hamson said about the draft process. “The Sparks knew that when they drafted me. They’ve been really supportive of me playing volleyball this year.”

Hamson has focused on volleyball this year and so far has had an impressive season, leading the Cougars in kills and gaining the nickname Jen “The Hammer” Hamson. After the volleyball season is over, she will have some decisions to make.

“This is the question,” Hamson said about her plans after the volleyball season is over. “I really have no idea. I have a lot of options athletically and otherwise, so I’m just waiting to see what turns out to be right for me.”

Even though Hamson’s future after BYU is up in the air, her legacy as a BYU Cougar is not.

“At the end of her career she’s going to go down as the greatest female student athlete ever on the BYU campus,” BYU’s head coach of women’s volleyball, Shawn Olmstead, said on BYU Sports Nation. “When you look at what she’s done you can’t deny it.”

There is no denying that Hamson has been great at BYU, and she still has a couple of months left to add to her résumé. The BYU women’s volleyball team is a top-10 team and is in a good position to win the WCC championship and go far into the NCAA tournament.

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