Sara Hamson high fives teammates before a game in the Marriott Center. Hamson is a team captain this year and prides herself on leading by example on the court. (Addie Blacker)

Sara Hamson leads by example for BYU women’s basketball

BYU women’s basketball senior Sara Hamson is one of the tallest players in the nation at 6-foot-7, first in the West Coast Conference in blocked shots, the reigning WCC Defensive Player of the Year, and part of a legendary family of BYU athletes.

The female side of Hamson’s family has had most of the athletic success. Hamson, her mother Teresa, and older sister Jennifer hold the top three spots on the list of most blocked shots in BYU women’s basketball history.  

“I think I am only 130 (blocks) behind (my) mom, so coming back next year I hopefully can crack that,” Hamson said.

Hamson said how amazing it is to have the opportunity to share that with her family and is grateful for how she was raised.  

“I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember,” Hamson said. “I probably (started in) kindergarten, little rec leagues, back when you had colored wristbands to match who you were guarding.”

Her love of team sports came from playing a variety of sports growing up, including soccer, volleyball and softball. She said she was very privileged to have parents that let her try all the ones that interested her.

Growth this season

“She has always been tall and (blocking shots has) always been part of her game,” her father, Dave Hamson, said. “I think people don’t understand how long she really is.”

Hamson’s wingspan measures nearly seven feet, allowing her to block shots with relative ease. She matched her career-high of nine blocks for the fifth time in her career on Feb. 9 against Pepperdine.

“Our defense is very team-based and my teammates do a great job of running people off the line and making them run to me which makes my job easier,” Hamson said. “When the opportunity arises, I take what I can get.”

COVID-19 has affected this season in more ways than one, but she said her teammates are always watching out for each other.

“This season has taught me resilience,” Hamson said. “Because there have been so many unexpected things thrown at us, and at me, this year, I’ve been learning a lot and have been able to practice weathering all these challenges that life has thrown at us.”

The Cougars went from playing one game in 10 days, to now six games in 14 days because of COVID-19 cancelations and reschedulings. She said it has made this season very unusual and tough, both mentally and physically. It is also hard for some of her teammates to balance school with the recent and sometimes last-minute travel for away games.

“Luckily though, our team is so good and so deep that we can all help carry that load of six games in two weeks,” Hamson said. “I’ve been super impressed with the consistency with our team and just working hard every day and in practice by pushing through the hard times and showing up for every game.”

Leading by example

This is Hamson’s senior year and she is one of the team captains. However, because of the new NCAA rule, all four seniors on the team have until March to decide if they want to come back next season. She said they will most likely return for another year with the added COVID-19 eligibility.

“I think it’s very exciting to see what we do this year,” Hamson said. “We have high and lofty goals, but to achieve those we need to take it one step at a time and see what happens.”

One of those goals is to be conference champions, but after her college career, she has big plans of her own.

“So plan A is to play pro and get drafted or play overseas,” Hamson said. “If that doesn’t work out, then get a programming job and travel the world because I would just love to have more experiences and see different cultures.”

Being a team captain has helped Hamson grow as a person as well as grow her confidence in who she is. She is focused on making sure people feel seen and noticed.

“I am very big on leading by example,” Hamson said. “I am not the most vocal of our captains or seniors, so I like to say little things in practice and try to be encouraging. There are a lot of good things that go on in our team and it’s hard to get everything that goes unnoticed.”

Head coach Jeff “Juddy” Judkins has been influential to Hamson. She said he has been the best coach for her, ever since her first semester at BYU.

“Juddy is so great,” she said. “He has a lot of confidence in himself and a lot of confidence in me, and that has been so helpful to fully believe in my potential and support me in that.”

Judkins said Hamson has stepped up defensively and has been more aggressive. On Jan. 26 against Pacific he said she had her best offensive game of the season with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting

“It’s great when you have so much depth on a team and allow people to get better,” Judkins said.

Loyal to BYU

Hamson had her eye on BYU since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she started playing more competitively that other colleges started looking at her. She said it was exciting for her to think about playing at a different school than her family, but as she narrowed down her options, BYU was the one for her.

BYU’s roster will be expanding next season with five freshmen coming to the team, along with other potential newcomers.  

“I would tell them to keep your head up and have a long-term vision to see the whole picture,” Hamson said in her message to new BYU athletes.

She also said college is a big change, but new athletes have to “control what you can, and go to work.”

“We are excited that this year, because of COVID, isn’t the end for this team because we will have next year as well,” Hamson said.

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