Dearica Hamby, - A Jack of All Trades
By: Stephanie Smallridge
Dearica Hamby was drafted 6th overall by the San Antonio Stars in the 2015 WNBA Draft, out of Wake Forest University. The franchise relocated prior to the start of the 2018 and became known as the Las Vegas Aces. Hamby finished college as the program’s leading scorer and leading rebounder. Also ranked top 5 in double-doubles, made free throws, made field goals, blocked shots, games played, games started, and minutes played. Her game has evolved since her college days, but found her niche in the WNBA, becoming the Aces’ ultimate weapon off the bench with the hardware to prove it, winning Sixth Woman of the Year in 2019 and 2020. She has the unique ability at 6’3” to guard all positions and offensively can handle the ball, but also be physical in the post and finish through contact, making her a rare talent of the game.
On September 15, 2019, Dearica Hamby’s night started off with receiving her Sixth Woman of the Year award before tip-off. The night just got better and better in the most unlikely of ways. She hit an epic game-winning 38ft shot from just inside half-court to beat the Chicago Sky in the 2nd round of the playoffs, advancing the Aces to the semifinals. It was a single-elimination game that turned out to be a game of runs and included the shot of the year. Chicago was up 92-90 and had possession. It was the team’s floor general, Courtney Vandersloot, who owns such a low assist-to-turnover ratio, dribbling the ball, but with a defender coming to pressure the ball, Sloot decided to pass it. The pass ended up being intercepted by Dearica Hamby with 9 seconds left in the game, somehow stays inbounds when she caught it. One dribble later and she heaves up a 38-foot desperation shot with 7.5 seconds left. Everyone in the arena and everyone watching at home is stunned seeing Hamby shoot that, but luckily for her and Aces fans, it miraculously went in. As the ball was in the air, I’m sure everyone was saying to themselves as they were on the edge of their seat, “what in the world is she doing?” After the game Dearica did say that she had no idea how much time was left on the clock and was in complete disbelief it went in. What made the moment and night even more special for Dearica was the fact that her precious daughter Amaya was able to witness it all in person. She was born in February of 2017 and Hamby returned to the court just months later for the start of the WNBA season, without missing a beat.
The Dearica Hamby shot showed shades of Teresa Weatherspoon’s iconic game-winning shot in Game 2 of the 1999 WNBA Finals, when she playing for the New York Liberty. Tina Thompson, a member of the Houston Comets at the time had just banked in a shot to take the lead 67-65. Liberty had no timeouts left and had to inbound the ball full-court. After receiving the inbound pass from Kym Hampton, Weatherspoon took two dribbles before sinking in a 50-foot shot at the buzzer to win 68-67 and force a Game 3. It later on became known as “The Shot.” There are moments that become just unforgettable, where you can remember them vividly as if you were watching the game for the first time, and these two shots definitely fit that bill. They are imprinted in the brains of fans for a lifetime.
COVID-19 has turned all our lives upside down, and it took its toll on athletes as well, in every way—emotionally, mentally, and physically, both professionally and personally. It made the sports world go on pause and put on their thinking caps to figure out a way to play games and complete a season safely. Bubbles with no fans were the answer. The WNBA’s bubble, aka the “wubble,” for the 2020 season was at the IMG academy in Bradenton, Florida. The players, coaches, some of their family members, and referees of the WNBA had to spend nearly 100 days where there was practically no escape from basketball. For some of these athletes, it was even more challenging because they are also moms, including Dearica, who had then-3-year-old Amaya with her. “Things I could've normally done to ‘escape,’ I couldn't do in the bubble. In a normal situation, after a rough game, you could go to dinner with family and friends or you could just lay out in the comfort of your own home…You couldn't just go home and be frustrated without locking yourself in your room. And personally I for sure couldn't take those frustrations back to Amaya.” They would have to compartmentalize and bottle it up at times, but that just goes to show the strength in these women. Hamby made it work and found the balance, earning Sixth Woman of the Year for a second straight year, recording season career-high averages in points (13.0), assists (2.7), 3pt FG% (47.4%), steals (1.7), and minutes (28.3).
She built on that impressive 2020 season and was named an All-Star for the first time in 2021 as a reserve and was in the conversation again to win Sixth Woman of the Year but finished as the runner-up to her teammate Kelsey Plum.
Dearica understands her role and knows what’s expected of her every game. “Everybody knows that I do what the team needs,” she said. “Sixth woman for me is a little more than scoring points. It’s being effective in different ways—defense, hustling, just playing hard. People tell me all the time that they can just tell how much heart I play with. I think that’s what being sixth woman represents.” Those are the qualities that just can’t be taught. It comes from within. That drive, the will, the determination.
With Elizabeth Cambage signing with the Los Angeles Sparks in the offseason and the hiring of first-year head coach and WNBA legend Becky Hammon, Dearica has moved into the starting lineup this season and her numbers have gone up since, almost averaging a double-double through 15 games (13.8 ppg and 9.2 rpg).
She’s a versatile forward with her guard-like skills. Brings high energy, athleticism, physicality, and effort on both ends of the court every game. It all impacts the game and all of it won’t show up in the box score, but she’s a jack of all trades and it most certainly doesn’t go unrecognized.
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