Jennifer Hamson transitions to the WNBA

Former BYU athlete Jennifer Hamson shoots during a game against Gonzaga in 2014. Jennifer now plays for the Los Angeles Sparks and continues to represent BYU's tradition of spirit and honor.(Ari Davis)
Former BYU athlete Jennifer Hamson shoots the ball during a game against Gonzaga in 2014. Jennifer now plays for the Los Angeles Sparks and continues to represent BYU’s tradition of spirit and honor. (Ari Davis)

Jennifer Hamson was a two-sport All-American athlete during her time at BYU and now she has moved on to bigger and better things as a contributing center for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks and the Russian Professional Basketball League.

“We are happy for her and excited for her. It’s wonderful just to recognize all of her accomplishments,” said Jennifer’s mother Tresa Spaulding-Hamson who was a basketball Hall of Famer when she played for BYU.

Jennifer was not BYU’s typical college senior in 2014. She led the Cougar women’s volleyball team to the championship game and fielded Olympic tryout offers for volleyball, and the Sparks had their eye on her basketball talent.

“The question was ‘Volleyball or basketball?’ and the Sparks drafted her to play basketball, so that was the choice,” Jennifer’s father David Hamson said.

But the choice of whether to pursue professional volleyball or basketball was not an easy one to make for Jennifer. There were many factors that went into her decision, according to David, and they kept piling up in favor of basketball. She looked at her body and how it reacted to the sports and the longevity she would have in playing either sport. Money and proximity to family were other factors Jennifer considered when she decided to pursue basketball.

“That decision was so hard,” Jennifer said. “I would have been happy either way and I would have been great either way. I just went with my gut and I am really happy with my decision.”

Making the switch from college to professional basketball has required adjustments. This is the first time she has lived far from her family. Jennifer is currently overseas in Europe playing for the Russian Professional Basketball League during the Sparks’ offseason. She is the starting center for the Enisey Krasnoyarsk team. Her parents said they loved going to games and supporting her while she played closer to home with the Los Angeles Sparks.

“And that professional level is just so different,” David said. “They play in the Staples Center and they do it up right. We cheer and encourage her and distract her and go visit her and all these things, but she doesn’t need basketball help, she just needs love and support and that’s what we do.”

Another challenge for Jennifer has been adjusting to the level of play at the professional level now that she has to go up against someone taller than her. Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury stands at 6-feet-8-inches and is the only one player in the league taller than Jennifer, who is 6-feet-7-inches.

“It was challenging, but at the same time I had fun with it,” Jennifer said. “Everyone is obviously really talented. A little faster and a little stronger, but for me it is just finding my rhythm again.”

Jennifer seems to have found her rhythm at the professional level and had many opportunities to let her talent shine. She averaged 4.3 minutes of playing time per game in her first 23 games with the Sparks. But in the last two games of the 2014-15 season, she averaged 32 minutes of playing time. She started in her first game this season with Enisey Krasnoyarsk on Oct. 26 and led the team to a victory and a bump in the European rankings from No. 7 to No. 5. Jennifer was the leading scorer with 26 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks against the Spartak Noginsk.

While Jennifer has found a home with the Sparks and in Europe, the Hamson legacy continues on at BYU. Jennifer is the oldest of five children and they all get their athletic inclination from their mother, according to David. Alan Hamson just returned from serving an LDS mission in California in August and is the second of the Hamson children to play basketball for BYU. He attributes beating his sister in one-on-one basketball to the fact that he is significantly taller than her at 7-feet-3-inches.

“It’s a lot to live up to and big shoes to fill, but I think its awesome,” Alan said. “She is a great athlete but she is still my sister. It’s just cool to be her brother.”

Jennifer’s mom Tresa was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1998 for her accomplishments as a BYU basketball player from 1983-1987. Jennifer built on her mother’s tradition of outstanding athletics at BYU, and now it is Alan’s turn to represent the Hamson family. He is excited to get to know the BYU basketball program and to get back to playing the sport.

BYU is a place Jennifer said she will never forget, even though she has moved on to the big leagues.

“At BYU I figured out who I was,” Jennifer said. “I am still who I am and I still believe what I’ve always believed but now I can take the experiences I had at BYU and carry them on.”

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