Hamson comes by her height and athleticism genetically. Her mother, the former Tresa Spaulding, led the nation in scoring as a senior at BYU in 1987, averaging 28.9 points per game, and was a first-team All-American. She finished her career with a 23.4 scoring average, once netting 50 points in a game. An alternate for the 1984 Olympic team, she played two seasons of professional basketball in Europe before marrying Dave Hamson and beginning a family.
It was a match made in basketball heaven. Tresa is 6-7. Dave, who was 5-7 when he got his driver’s license, is 6-8. They have five children: 7-foot-3 Alan, 6-11 Timothy, 6-6½ Jennifer, 6-4 Sara and 5-2 Heather (at the age of 10). Alan played basketball for Pleasant Grove High School, while Timothy played one year before quitting the sport to pursue music. Sara will play for Pleasant Grove in the winter.
Jennifer was around the game since she was in preschool. Tresa kept statistics for BYU basketball games and Jennifer tagged along. She ran around the Marriott Center to amuse herself, but she wasn’t interested in playing the game: “I think part of the reason I didn’t play is because I was around it so much,” she says.
She chose instead to participate in, of all things, gymnastics, simply because it was what her close friend did. Gymnastics is dominated by short athletes for the simple reason it’s easier for a small body to tumble through the air than a tall one.
“I wasn’t very good,” Hamson says. “My coach knew I was there for my friend.”
She competed in the sport for eight years, a giant among munchkins. Tresa tried to direct her away from the sport: “There are sports that are better for your height,” she would say.
Jennifer was 6-foot-4 in eighth grade and more than a foot taller than her teammates when she finally gave up gymnastics. She joined the Pleasant Grove volleyball and basketball teams, which is what parents, coaches and classmates had urged her to do for years.
“For a long time I didn’t like basketball,” she says. “I’m not sure the reason. Maybe because everyone pushed it on me.”
Jennifer, who reached her current height at 16, was hardly a dominating basketball player. She was unskilled and her coordination was still catching up with her height.
“I was tall,” she says. “I definitely wasn’t good. I started off like everyone else.”
By her senior year she was being recruited by colleges for both sports.
She began basketball so late and spent so little time on it because of her divided basketball-volleyball interests that she was a raw basketball player who hadn’t yet developed solid fundamentals. Her only real move in high school was a turn around jump shot. She didn’t have the power game one would expect of a player her size.
After focusing on the game last year, she produced easily her best season, averaging 18 points per game, despite frequent double teams, and 11 rebounds. Using her volleyball skills she blocked 147 shots (4.2 per game). She was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, the first woman to win both awards in one season. The Cougars finished with a 28-7 record and Hamson was an honorable-mention All-American.
“I didn’t realize what I could do until this last season,” she says. “I didn’t think I was good enough. Focusing on it made all the difference. I improved so much. I just hadn’t developed the way I wanted to because I had trained for volleyball in the summer.”
She worked on all aspects of improving her game, including her intensity. She is so reserved and restrained that coaches have encouraged her to show more emotion. She concedes that she has had to learn to be competitive.
“I’m not an emotional person,” she says. “I don’t get mad. Being level-headed is good – you deal with pressure better. But at the same time you have to bring that emotion into the game. Both coaches have talked to me about it."
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