June 24, 2022
How Dearica Hamby has become the Aces’ X-Factor
The eighth year veteran knows she doesn't have to score to make Las Vegas successful
Putting together a championship team is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; it takes a lot of pieces. Every piece is different and the team that can best make the pieces fit together is most likely to win the championship. If you look at most championship teams, they all have a player who fits in wherever is needed, doesn’t ask for a lot and only cares about one thing: winning. For the Las Vegas Aces, that player is Dearica Hamby.
“When you’re trying to build a championship team, everybody’s not meant to be scorers. I think I’m capable, I think everybody thinks I’m capable, but we have a team of elite scorers,” Hamby told The Next. “I think I’ve made my mark in this league by being the player that just plays super hard and does everything without really receiving a lot of credit, but everybody knows that I’m kind of like the X-Factor.”
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Hamby came out of Wake Forest as the most prolific player in Demon Deacon history. She left Winston-Salem as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in program history. That was one of the main reasons she was drafted as the sixth overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft. While she had some up and down seasons to start her career, she has found her grove over the past few years. She was named WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year in both 2019 and 2020 and appeared in her first All-Star game in 2021.
So far this year, Hamby is having her best season ever as pro. Through 16 games, she is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds while shooting 56.1% from the field, all of which are career highs for her. Her rebounding numbers are fourth best in the league while her shooting from the field is fifth best in the WNBA. She also is top 10 in both offensive rating and offensive win shares. Her head coach, Becky Hammon, says Dearica does all these great things for the Aces without needing to call her number.
“She’s somebody who plays really hard. And she wants to win. That’s why she does anything we ask her. She guards one through five,” said Hammon. “And what’s great about her is she just finds ways to interject herself into the offense, whether that’s getting on the glass, it’s backdooring, it’s cutting, it’s screening. She’s a really special piece and a necessary piece, especially with the other four that I have out there. You know, there’s only one ball and she’s somebody who the ball just seems to find her.”
The reason Hammon doesn’t have to call plays for Hamby to score is because Hamby does all the little things that don’t show up in a box score. She is an incredibly intelligent player who knows exactly where to be on the floor. For example, Hamby was standing in the exact correct spot on Sunday evening to hit the game-sealing three pointer against Minnesota. She does a great job of cutting to the basket when one of her teammates drives and draws the attention of her defender. She knows when she is being guarded by a smaller defender and uses her size to her advantage. She is constantly helping on defense, trying to find ways to impact the game on both ends of the floor. She crashes the glass hard, as shown by her high rebounding numbers. However, according to Hammon, the thing she does best that can’t be quantified is how hard she runs the floor in transition.
“Probably more than anything how she impacts the game is her ability to run the floor. She puts early pressure on the rim just by running hard, and then everybody else can kind of, come in that second wave,” said Hammon. “So you can hit people in transition a first wave, a second wave and then if we don’t have anything, we can pull it out and run something; but her ability to put pressure on the rim without the ball is special.”
For Hamby, basketball hasn’t always been her world. She didn’t even start playing basketball until her sophomore year of high school. She played softball as a kid, but it took her a while to find herself in the basketball world. However, she used what she learned on the diamond, as well as her athleticism to blossom into one of the best players in the WNBA. Hamby feels that because she started so late playing basketball, she is just starting to find her groove.
“I was a late bloomer into basketball, so I honestly feel like I’m just now starting to really become a pro and understand the importance of the little things. Being a good professional, being a good teammate and doing extra little things that make a difference in your career,” said Hamby. “I would say people that know me around the league, they’ll tell you, I’m probably one of the hardest working players on the floor, and I compete. I hustle. I do the little things I don’t necessarily get the credit for. But I think it’s been proven that you have to have me on the floor to win.”
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As the most veteran player on the Aces’ roster, Hamby has seen the ups and downs of the franchises over the past few years. She has seen them be terrible in San Antonio and have three straight number one overall picks, which happen to be three of her four fellow starters on this 2022 Aces team. She has seen the franchise move from Texas to Las Vegas. She has seen three head coaching changes in her now eighth year with the franchise. Even earlier this year, teammate A’ja Wilson jokingly said that Hamby was the face of the Aces’ franchise. Wilson, in case you forgot, is a former MVP and was just named an All-Star Captain.
“I think that’s part of why I’ve stayed so loyal to the Aces and why I’ve stuck around as long as I have. I could have left at some point. But it means a lot, I started when the team was at the bottom. If we could win, it would mean a lot to me, because I’ve been here since the beginning,” Hamby said.
While she is a competitor, it is rare you don’t see Hamby with a smile on her face when she is on the court. Hamby is a joyful person who enjoys what she does and doesn’t take it for granted. You can see how her energy rubs off on her teammates who can’t help but smile and laugh when they are around her. She even recently got into a prank war with teammate Kelsey Plum, which involved water balloons and spray paint. Hamby seems to just create happiness wherever she goes.
“She’s just pure joy. I think she’s so compassionate and has a love for people. You see that in her, you see that in her daughter, the way she treats people. I’m just blessed to have her in my life,” Plum told The Next. “I think on the court she plays as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. I mean like Dennis Rodman, like you know what I’m saying, so I would go to war with her any day.”
A big reason for Hamby’s joyful outlook is her five-year old daughter Amaya. Most people who follow the Aces or Hamby know her daughter. If you come to any Aces’ game, you will see Amaya, whether that is on the big screen or in the stands. She has gotten to be involved in her mom’s world every step of the way. She traveled with Hamby to the WNBA bubble in 2020 as well as on road trips throughout this season. The Aces have made her their official junior reporter and have her involved in a lot of in-game videos they put on the jumbotron. Hamby is so happy her daughter gets to have experiences like this at such a young age.
“It’s so cool that [Amaya]’s older now, she can kind of understand it; but it’s so touching because her teacher emailed me, I had invited her teacher to a game and she came. She enjoyed it, it was her first WNBA game,” Hamby said. “She was like the game was great, your little one is so proud of you, the way she glows when she talks about you playing basketball and how much fun she has at the games. It kind of made me tear up and that’s what means the most to me. She’s really enjoying it.”
Hamby understands her role on this Aces’ team. She doesn’t need to be an elite scorer. The headlines aren’t always about her. While she is the longest tenured player for the franchise, she isn’t the face of it. However, none of that matters to her; all that matters at the end of the day is winning and having Amaya helped her to see the game this way.
“I think it’s made me a lot more selfless, and I think after giving birth, you get sort of like this mom strength. But just looking at the bigger picture, I think once you have a kid, for me, it removed my ego a little bit, in a lot of things,” Hamby said. “I’m focused on the bigger picture, and I do what I have to do, winning takes care of everything. The things that I’ve done will shine when we win.”
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.