BYU basketball: For Hamson, pro hoops or college volleyball?
Provo • Jennifer Hamson has a growing dilemma on her hands, and BYU's two-sport star has her own rapid improvement to blame.
In her first three years at BYU, the 6-foot-7 Hamson played volleyball in the fall and basketball in the winter. She did both well, earning first-team All-America honors in volleyball in 2012 and West Coast Conference first-team honors in basketball after her junior year.
It was generally believed that volleyball was her best sport, so it came as no small surprise last summer when Hamson announced she would redshirt the 2013 volleyball season and focus solely on basketball this school year. The plan was to use her final season of volleyball eligibility this fall.
But something remarkable has happened along the way. Hamson has made so many leaps and bounds on the basketball court that some WNBA teams, scouts and agents have taken notice.
"I have had a lot of agents and a couple scouts call me about her," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said last week. "I definitely think she has a good shot at getting drafted, maybe in the first round. She's one of the best big players in the country right now."
Judkins said Hamson's sole focus on basketball this year has paid tremendous dividends. She's gotten stronger, which has helped her establish better position in the low post, and better conditioned so she can get down the floor faster and get set up in the paint to block shots. She leads the country in blocked shots, averaging almost a half-block a game more than any one else in the country, 4.2.
For her part, Hamson remains committed to playing volleyball for coach Shawn Olmstead this fall, but acknowledges ever-so-slightly that a chance to start making money playing professional basketball this summer is appealing. She will graduate this spring with a degree in exercise science.
"I am definitely going to play volleyball next fall," Hamson said. "I made a commitment there, and I am going to keep it. After that, I haven't quite decided yet whether it is going to be volleyball or basketball [as a professional]."
It should be noted that Hamson's name does not appear on any of the handful of WNBA first-round mock drafts found online. And the website draftsite.com doesn't even have her being drafted in its three-round, 36-player mock draft. But Judkins insists the interest is there.
"I have told them that she is planning on playing volleyball next year from August to December," Judkins said. "So I don't know if a team will take the risk and draft her, then wait for her to play volleyball. My gut feeling is they might, because of the money and all that."
Hamson says she will cross that bridge when she comes to it. Right now her focus is squarely on helping BYU's women's basketball team finish the season strong and compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.
A date hasn't been set for this year's WNBA draft because the league only recently reached a new labor agreement with its players' union. Last year's draft was on April 15.
"There are still some questions we are trying to work out," Hamson said, when asked if she can sign with an agent in basketball [and start getting paid] and retain her amateur status in volleyball. "That would be harder to turn down, but I made a commitment. And I play more for the love of the sport and the competition than the money."
Hamson leads the team in scoring (18.4) and rebounding (11.5) and is coming off a week in which she led the Cougars to wins over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount that kept them in second place in the West Coast Conference standings.
She had 17 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in an 89-75 win over Pepperdine and followed that with her 19th double-double of the year against Loyola Marymount: 23 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.
The Cougars (13-4, 23-5) put their seven-game winning streak on the line Saturday in their home finale against San Diego, then turn their attention to the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas the following week.
"It was a good decision" to focus on basketball this year, Hamson said. "I wouldn't go back and change it. I have no regrets at all. I think it turned out the way it was supposed to. I did my best and it has turned out great for me."
Jennifer Hamson file
• Played both volleyball and basketball her first three years at BYU.
• Senior is focusing on basketball only this school year, will play final season of volleyball next fall.
• Leads the team in scoring (18.4), rebounds (11.5) and blocked shots (4.2).
• Leads the nation in blocked shots, is 14th in rebounds and 12th in double-doubles.
• Will graduate this spring with a degree in exercise science.