Jen is obviously an amazing player. She can do so many things. She’s a real leader on the court and it’s just awesome to have her back. – Amy Boswell on teammate Jen Harrison
PROVO — Having Jen Hamson as a teammate is obviously a very good thing.
The 6-foot-7 Hamson has been starring for both the BYU women’s volleyball and basketball teams since 2010. Her imposing frame and exceptional athleticism has contributed mightily to the success of both programs and made her a focal point on either team most years.
Turns out not having Hamson as a teammate isn’t as bad as one would think.
The BYU women’s volleyball team learned the latter last season during an impressive run that saw it advance clear to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament without its marquee player. Hamson opted to sit out the volleyball season in 2013 to focus just on basketball — a move that all involved say has been ultimately beneficial, not only to Hamson, but somewhat unexpectedly for the volleyball team.
“It helped a ton,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead of the success in 2013. “The girls responded really well. Whether it was a chip on their shoulders, because I did tell them at the start that no one was expecting them to do anything without Jen. Whether that got them real agitated? I don’t know, but they did a great job, and a lot of the girls gained some new confidence.”
A lot of the same players who made the run in 2013 are back, as is Hamson, who is again starring at the opposite position alongside many other players who benefited from playing a year without her. The onus shifted to other players, such as Alexa Gray, Tambre Nobles and Amy Boswell, among others, to lead and reach new heights individually, which ultimately benefited them all collectively.
“Jen didn’t have to save the day. They were doing it,” Olmstead explained. “So there were a lot of positives — more than I would have expected, to be honest.”
Now that Hamson is back, the team is again playing at a high level, ranked No. 14 nationally and poised to make another deep run in the NCAA tournament. The team entered November leading in the West Coast Conference standings and is still improving.
“I’m real pleased with where we’re at,” Olmstead said.
No successful team is satisfied with any current status and always looking to improve. Such is the case with the Cougars, and particularly with Hamson, who still is rounding into form late in the season after sitting out an entire year.
“In my opinion she’s still getting better and better,” Olmstead said. “She took a lot of time (off), and volleyball is a very skill-specific sport, so she lost a lot of touch and some ins and outs of the game. But she’s getting it back little by little, and it’s fun being along for the ride.”
Players certainly agree with Olmstead's sentiments regarding Hamson.
“Jen is obviously an amazing player. She can do so many things. She’s a real leader on the court and it’s just awesome to have her back," Boswell said. "It's not just because she's an amazing player, but we love her as a person and as a teammate."
Next up: BYU vs. Saint Mary's
Where: Smith Fieldhouse (BYU)
When: Thursday, Nov. 6, 7:00 p.m. MST