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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Are WNBA teams willing to wait on BYU's Hamson?

Jennifer Hamson, the 6-foot-7 multi-sport star who I have declared the best female athlete ever at BYU, will take some late-semester tests this afternoon and then head home to Lindon to watch the WNBA Draft. The picks begin at 6 p.m. MT on ESPN2, then move over to ESPNU for the second and third rounds.

Will Hamson be drafted? Even she doesn’t know.

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"Everyone is telling me that I am going to be drafted, but you never know for sure," Hamson told me last Thursday.

Of course, it is what Hamson has been telling WNBA teams that could keep her from being drafted. As this story in today’s Tribune details, Hamson has told the WNBA teams which have contacted her or coach Jeff Judkins that she will definitely not play professional basketball this summer.

Instead, she will play at a college volleyball camp in Minneapolis in late June and early July, then return to the BYU volleyball team for her final year of eligibility in that sport this fall.

"It is probably going to be a tough decision for most teams, because I have decided I am not going to play this summer, so they would be drafting me for next season [2015]," Hamson said.

I contacted the draft website Draftsite.com for some expert analysis on Hamson and what WNBA teams might elect to do tonight. Gentry Worthington, Senior WNBA Draft Analyst for the Draftsite.com was kind enough to provide me with this detailed analysis of Hamson’s game and her draftability.

Here’s what Worthington wrote in regards to Hamson:

"BYU's 6'7" center Jennifer Hamson became more of a focal point of BYU's offense during her junior year after guard Lexi Eaton went out for the year with an ACL tear. She did not look comfortable right away with the role. She must not have felt fully comfortable either—a three-year All American volleyball player—she decided to delay her fourth year of eligibility for volleyball to focus on basketball.

This decision paid off immensely for her. In her final year of basketball she played a lot more freely on the court. She was in better shape for the up and down game of basketball. Her fluidity in movement increased, most noticeably on defense as she led the nation in blocks and finished as BYU's career leader. She was also among the leaders in rebounds and scoring.

This improvement won't go unnoticed by WNBA GMs. As Hamson plans to continue her volleyball career in the fall, whether she gets drafted or not will depend on the commitment GMs think she will make towards her future in basketball. Her size is a big plus for the WNBA with Brittney Griner in the league. Teams will be looking at her toughness (two broken noses this season fighting for the ball). She has all the physical tools that teams will be looking for. She will probably be limited offensively in the WNBA until she learns to adjust to the physical nature of the league. Playing physically is not what she is not what she is known for. She improved on the consistency of her jumpshot. WNBA teams will always have a spot for a player who can knock down an open shot (easier to get at her size).

Prognostication: Since it seems Jen Hamson has shown interest in continuing to play basketball by signing up to for pre-draft camps, I can't see teams passing on her just for one year of volleyball. She might slide a little if teams have other needs, or if contending teams need a player who will definitely be there with them in the fall when the WNBA playoffs occur. She should definitely get drafted, even if a team just wants to hold her rights for a year while she focuses on volleyball. The highest she will probably get drafted is to Atlanta or Seattle in the middle of the second round to the middle of the third round."

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Of course, the happiest man in Provo these days is women’s volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead, who was probably a bit nervous until Hamson confirmed last week that she is keeping her word to play volleyball at BYU this fall.

"He was happy. He was a little nervous, I guess, with all the WNBA stuff going around," Hamson said of the third-year coach. "But he knows that I am committed to this team this next season. I think he is happy, I guess."

Hamson said she really doesn’t have a favorite WNBA team, and has only seen bits and pieces of WNBA games.

"I am not a big sports-watcher," she said. "I am just excited that they are considering me. It is a great opportunity to be able to play."

Even if it won’t happen for a year or two.

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Perhaps no player in the women’s NCAA Tournament helped her draft stock more than Hamson, who led the 12th-seeded Cougars to upset wins over NC State and Nebraska and showed well in a 19-point loss to eventual champion UConn.

BYU coach Jeff Judkins said he fielded a lot of calls from WNBA GMs and coaches after the tournament run.

"Yeah, there is no question that what she did in the tournament turned some heads," Judkins said. "People saw how good she was. Even against UConn, she kept them from scoring in the paint.

There is no question in my mind that Jen’s best years are ahead of her in basketball. This was the first year she focused on basketball. She will get even better."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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