Provo • When BYU’s senior center Jen Hamson is getting shoved and elbowed in the paint, it’s all her mother can do to try to hold her shouting in.
Tresa Spaulding Hamson is a vocal woman, a competitor who isn’t shy about letting her passion out. And only a fraction of her frustration is maternal instinct.
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Like mother, like daughter
Both Tresa Spaulding Hamson and daughter Jen Hamson were BYU centers. How they stack up in program history:
Points » Tresa 2,309 (2nd); Jen 1,428 (10th)
Rebounds » Tresa 980 (2nd); Jen 952 (3rd)
Blocks » Tresa 494 (1st); Jen 334 (2nd)
Shooting percentage » Tresa 60.9 percent (1st); Jen 55.6 percent (3rd)
She flashes back to nearly 30 years ago, when she was the one taking the hits. The bruises her daughter gets are the same as the ones she got when, as she recalls, officials did her no favors because of her 6-foot-7 size.
But those moments of empathetic frustration amount to little in terms of how Tresa and the entire Hamson clan burst with pride to see how Jen has helped lead BYU to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The daughter of a Cougar basketball legend didn’t take to the sport at all when she was young; it’s still hard to believe how far she’s come.
"It’s been a little stressful, but a lot of fun — I’d like to wring some ref’s necks," Tresa said. "It’s important to you. You know how important it is to your child. You’re competitive, you want to be the best."
It may not be surprising that the two tallest women to ever play for BYU basketball are from the same family. Tresa still stands tall as one of BYU’s all-time greats: She’s the all-time leading shot blocker in program history, and second in rebounds and points. She led the nation in scoring as a senior in 1987, and she played professionally in Europe in a time when pro basketball avenues were limited for women.
But Jen is the phenom of the moment. Leading the Cougars by averaging a double-double and leading the nation in blocked shots, the senior has helped guide the program to only its second Sweet 16 berth. She’s a center with quickness, one who can flash to the perimeter and swat a guard as well as knock around in the post.
She’s just at adept at deflecting fawning compliments or notions that she’s better than any of her teammates.
"Honestly my mindset is just to play hard," Jen said. "I’m always playing better when I’m trying to play hard and aggressive. "
BYU coach Jeff Judkins knows he’s lucky, because he knows how she came to adopt that mindset. His best player has a mother who helped her unleash her competitive side.
"Her mom knows how to push her," Judkins said. "Her mom taught her the right way. Her mom is fair with her but hard on her. Jen’s mom been a big part of this."
It wasn’t always this way: Jen has been pretty open that she used to "hate" basketball growing up.
It’s true. The two-sport star once had only one love — for gymnastics. For the first part of her life, she was a tumbler, a balancer. Anything but a basketball player. It was with great reluctance that she ever played the game with her hoops-loving family.
Growing up changed a lot. As Hamson’s arms became longer, gymnastics was a tougher and tougher task. She had to avoid hitting the ceiling on her routines. One day, she caved to her genetics. Tresa will never forget it.
"I didn’t talk to her at all, she just came to me one day, and said, ‘Hey mom, I think I want to play basketball,’" she remembered. "I have to admit I freaked."
Tresa has been her daughter’s biggest backer ever since, from organizing a bantam team before she went to high school, to being an assistant coach on her squads, to now shouting her lungs out from the stands. The entire Hamson family, in fact, can often be seen at the games, towering over most of the other fans.
The differences between the two are distinct: Tresa was always more vocal, more front-and-center, while Jen would rather escape most of the attention she’s gotten by her on-court exploits. But while Jen said she wasn’t a natural competitor, her mother disagrees. All you had to do was watch the Hamson play games together in the living room.
"Oh my goodness, that child is very, very competitive," Tresa said. "She is the silent competitor. All of my kids hated to play games with her because she always won."
The time for games is nearly over, as Jen’s college career is ticking toward a close. She’ll play one more season of volleyball before examining what’s next. That could range from pro basketball avenues in the WNBA or Europe, to playing volleyball with the national team.
The future contains tough choices, which Jen has never liked much. It’s one reason she played both sports at BYU, splitting the difference between her two passions. It may be one of the reasons she won’t catch her mother in the Cougars’ record book.
But although Tresa’s records are still ahead of Jen, she knows no matter what the future brings, her mom is behind her as well. She saw it after BYU upset Nebraska, as Tresa leapt for joy when she came out of the locker room.
"If you had told me when I first started basketball that I would come this far, or that I would’ve been part of such a great team, I probably wouldn’t have believed you," Jen said. "Hopefully I make her proud."
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