June 3, 2024 

Dearica Hamby’s ‘great motor’ is powering her to her strongest start yet

'My teammates and my GM and my coaches are just feeding me confidence and giving me direction to lead this team'

Dearica Hamby’s nine seasons in the WNBA haven’t lacked accolades. She’s won sixth player of the year twice (2020 and 2019). She won a WNBA Championship with the Las Vegas Aces in 2022. She’s a two time WNBA All-Star, selected in both 2021 and 2022. But she’s never truly emerged as a team’s primary offensive threat, until now. She currently plays on a Sparks team that desperately relies on not only her veteran leadership, but also, her incredible motor. 

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Hamby’s move to the Sparks in 2023 was clouded with controversy. She was traded from the Aces to the Sparks after having signed a two-year contract extension only six months prior. She stated that the Aces did not follow through on promises they had made to her. Furthermore, she accused the team of bullying, manipulation, and discrimination. Hamby was pregnant with her second child at the time. 

Only two months after giving birth, Hamby was back on the court for the Sparks season opener. She had a strong season and became an immediate fan favorite in Los Angeles. She even got a nod for USA Olympic Training Camp in November. 

But that’s nothing compared to what she’s accomplishing on the court this season. She emerged immediately as the Sparks’ leading scorer and pace-setter. She’s averaging 20.9 points per game – her highest previous was 13 in 2020. She’s shooting 52.4% from the floor and is second in the league in rebounds, with 11.6 per contest. 

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Hamby’s go-to role and on-court leadership position are new for her, and may take some time to adjust (though that’s certainly not apparent in the stat sheet). Last season, she played primarily alongside perennial All-Star Nneka Ogwumike, who led the team on both offense and defense. Following Ogwumike’s signing with the Seattle Storm this offseason, the team knew there would be a significant gap to fill. Hamby is challenging herself to be that veteran presence. 

“I said this before I started camp that I’m going to compete like I’m the best player on the floor. That may not always be true, but I’m going to believe that and I’m going to compete that way. I’m glad to see it translating,” said Hamby after a 24 point, 13 rebound performance in a loss to the Chicago Sky on May 30. 

After a disappointing at-home loss to the Indiana Fever, Hamby blamed some second half missteps on “a little bit of fatigue but also frustration. That’s where I gotta be better. I’m not used to kind of being in this position to take that load, so that’s a learning adjustment that I’m going to have to take on. I can’t allow me not touching the ball to frustrate me and have lapses on defense. I’ll be better from this.” 

Per Coach Curt Miller, she’s been “so confident and played with so much desire to be the go-to player this year – that’s been great. And I can’t say enough good things about Dearica and the way she’s playing.”  

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Hamby is making tough shots she wasn’t making last year, and leading a squad of notably young post players in Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson (“those are my babies,” she says). But perhaps most impressive of all, she’s playing 36.9 minutes per game, second in the league only to Arike Ogunbowale

After the Sparks’ first win of the season against the Washington Mystics, Coach Miller remarked on Hamby’s motor. “I mean, she could probably play another game if I rolled her out here right now. Her motor’s just crazy.” She’d just played 37 minutes and snatched a whopping 18 rebounds. 

“That’s just kind of what I do. When I was in college, I never did cardio in the offseason. It was just lift and get stronger, […] and I would come back and pass conditioning tests,” Hamby said after a 39-minute outing a few weeks later. Her teammate Kia Nurse just shook her head and laughed. She played 40 minutes in a win over the Fever on May 28, and repeated the sentiment. “Even after a game like this, I feel like I have more. I have more to give,” she said. 

Coach Miller sees her stamina as not only the root of her effectiveness, but also what makes her a really challenging matchup for teams. “She’s an incredible competitor. She’s got a great motor. And she’s really hard to guard because of that,” he said. “She’s creating a bunch of her own offense because of her motor and she’s getting out in transition. She’s rebounding. She’s just is an incredible worker.” He added that she’s most effective when the team plays “up and down,” getting her out in transition, where she beats other centers down the floor and creates seamless offense. 

In addition to Hamby’s impactful size in the post and ability to run the floor, she’s leading the Sparks in both steals (1.8) and assists (3.6) per game, despite starting for them at center. She went 3-3 from three in her most recent game, bringing her to 53.3% from the floor. She’s a nightmare matchup for opponents, and as the Sparks look to improve on their 2-6 record, her motor and drive will remain integral to their success. 

Per Hamby, her motivation is “first and foremost [my] kids. But I just want to help this team and help this organization and … I feel like I have to give myself grace. Last year I came in here and looked a lot different. But I just want to help this team win.”

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Written by Cameron Ruby

Cameron Ruby has been a contributing writer for The Next since April 2023. She is a Bay Area native currently living in Los Angeles.

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