BYU senior center Jennifer Hamson has never really needed to develop a hook shot, since at 6-foot-7 she’s generally been significantly taller than most of her competition.
But with the Los Angeles Sparks drafting Hamson with the 23rd overall pick in Monday’s WNBA draft, that might change.
Sparks executive vice president and general manager Penny Toler said during a phone interview Tuesday that there is someone in the organization who might be able to help.
“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lived off that hook shot for years and he taught it to Magic Johnson,” Toler said. “Now Magic can teach Jennifer.”
Johnson and Mark Walter, the chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, bought the team back in February, so the possibility is there.
“That would be amazing,” Hamson said. “We met Magic when we were in Los Angeles for the NCAA tournament and he was so great. It would be amazing to do something with him.”
Hamson became the third Cougar women’s basketball player drafted when her name was called Monday. She said it was an honor to join Erin Thorn (2003) and Ambrosia Anderson (2006).
“It was exciting to be honored and get drafted like that,” Hamson said. “(Thorn and Anderson) were really good. It’s cool to represent BYU this way.”
Hamson said she’s received a lot of well-wishes from friends, family and former teammates.
“My family was really excited,” Hamson said. “My dad was really getting into it, trying to guess where I would go. We didn’t pick Los Angeles but my mom loves it because it’s closer and it’s one of the top programs.”
Another group that was excited was the Sparks, who were thrilled to have Hamson get to them at No. 23.
“We think she has a lot of good qualities,” Toller said. “The main thing is her defense. She’s a shot blocker but she can also get up and down the floor. She’s someone we can develop for the future. We’re lucky to have great stars so she’ll gain even more because of what she’ll face in practice.”
Toler said Los Angeles knew who Hamson was before this year’s NCAA tournament but the Cougar run to the Sweet 16 and subsequent performance against the eventual national champs from Connecticut were the “final touch.”
“We’d seen her on tape and knew that since she has a good coach, she’d been well-coached,” Toler said. “But I’d never seen her in person. She had a so-so game in the first one, then a great game in the next one. When they played UConn, she went up against Stefanie Dolson, who is a great player, and Hamson neutralized her. It was really tough for Dolson to get points.”
With all that success, the ex-BYU star might’ve been taken higher in the draft but her decision to return to Provo for her final year of volleyball might’ve made some teams hesitant.
Toler, on the other hand, said she is fully supportive of Hamson’s decision.
“You have to understand that you are only in college once,” Toler said. “From what I’ve heard, BYU is a very family-friendly environment. Since she has the opportunity to stay, I would say to her to take advantage of it. We support her in that.”
Toler plans to invite Hamson to meet the players and coaches this year and get a chance to develop some familiarity.
“I think it’s awesome they want to do that,” Hamson said. “It’s good to get familiar with the people I might be playing with. They have great athletes and a great program, so that’s just awesome.”
Toler added that she told the assistant coaches that No. 5 wasn’t available, since that would be Hamson’s number when she got to Los Angeles.
Toler said that the Sparks have a young team that will keep getting better and Hamson’s potential at center could play a big role in their future.
“In both men’s and women’s basketball, the hardest position to develop is the center,” Toler said. “But she’ll be in a position where everything won’t be focused on her. She’ll have time to develop and a lot of help around her.”
Now it comes down to whether Hamson decides to focus more on basketball or volleyball.
“It definitely makes it harder to choose between volleyball and basketball,” Hamson said. “There are two great opportunities in each sport. But at least I have a choice.”
Hamson said if she elects to go with basketball, she believes she has plenty to improve on to be a solid player at that level.
“I have a lot I need to work on,” she said. “It’s a more physical game, so I’ll need to get stronger. It would be good to get quicker too. To be good in that league, you have to be stronger and faster.”
Toler said she believes Hamson has good defensive presence and understanding — Hamson said that’s her favorite part of the game — but the Sparks executive vice president pointed to the other end of the court as where she could really improve her game.
“I believe Hamson has yet to tap into the basketball potential of what she can become,” Toler said. “This is a future investment that we are willing to wait on, then invest the time and effort to get her to that point.”
∫ Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.