The Las Vegas Aces had a relatively light to-do list entering this past offseason. Restricted free agent Dearica Hamby was a top priority, reflected in the new deal she signed with the team on the first day of 2019 free agency.
The Aces re-signed Hamby to a three-year guaranteed contract per the High Post Hoops salary database. Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer is looking forward to a big season from the fifth-year forward. Armed with the new contract, Hamby feels the same way.
“Definitely stability and security. I really wanted to be in Vegas so I’m glad it worked out,” Hamby told High Post Hoops after a recent practice. “Overall, just knowing there’s no more pressure. I just get to come out and play as hard as I can.”
“For a player of her caliber, we wanted her back,” Aces general manager Dan Padover told High Post Hoops at the team’s media day. “She knew that. She wanted to come back. It wasn’t anything hard to hammer out. We were happy to get her back.”
The added stability doesn’t just affect Hamby. Her daughter Amaya, 2, has a chance to spend more time in a familiar setting. Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum and Sydney Colson are among Amaya’s favorite Aces.
“They all want to see her and spend time with her,” Hamby said. “She wants to go outside; she wants to go to Kayla’s house to swim. She’s really starting to comprehend and understand.”
Q&A with Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby on motherhood, the year round grind, her daughter's favorite Aces players and playing alongside A'ja Wilson.
Hamby spent the WNBA offseason playing for Ragusa in Italy, locked in on further developing her shot, pushing the ball in transition and working on a move Laimbeer is eager to see her utilize this season.
“Bill has this one move that he wants me to do, like, every time I get the ball,” Hamby said with a smile. “So I’ve been working on that. But overseas it’s a travel, so it’s really hard to actually implement it in games because they would just call a travel. But mentally, just thinking about that move.
“Being more confident in my shot, just shooting it when I have the space. And then I want to be able to push the ball a little bit more this year. Not too many players can do that in this league, so I think that would give me an advantage on the floor and our team an advantage in transition since we are a transition team. So if I can run with the guards—I run with them now—but with the ball, I think that’d be good.”
Nearly four months after Hamby re-upped with the team, the Aces shook up the league’s entire landscape by acquiring All-WNBA center Liz Cambage in a deal with the Dallas Wings.
“I’m excited,” Hamby said in response to the team’s big acquisition. “I think we’re going to be good. I was telling my teammates when it was said and done that I was driving in the car and just so happy and filled with good energy just knowing we have a chance to be a really, really good team.”
Even before the Cambage trade, the Aces were in a much better place with most of the team in training camp for more than a week together—a far cry from last season, the franchise’s first in a new market.
“I think last year, everybody’s adjusting to everybody,” Hamby said. “Outside of [Kelsey] Plum, [Kayla McBride] and I, we were pretty much a whole new team. So, learning each other, learning Bill, learning how to play Bill’s system, learning how to work with Bill—the things he likes, the things he doesn’t like. A lot of us are a lot more comfortable than we were last year; it’s a lot more relaxing.”
Hamby’s ability to contribute offensively from different areas on the floor will be a big plus for the Aces as they aim to create as much room as possible for Cambage and All-Star A’ja Wilson to go to work inside. Hamby fits in lineups with either player but hasn’t lost sight of her biggest calling cards amid the Cambage hype.
“I stay on the floor because I play super hard,” she said. “I just try to play really hard on defense, just do the stuff that most players don’t do—run the floor really hard, get deflections, dive on the ball.
“I’m versatile enough that if A’ja wants to be inside, I can be outside. If Liz wants to step outside, I can be inside. So I think I’m going to be able to play with both of them and I’m going to feed off of them.”
Will the Aces race out to a fast start out of the gates and never look back with this sudden influx of an all-world player? Perhaps. But Hamby, one of the few holdovers from the franchise’s time in San Antonio, wants to see her team first find the right collective mentality to cultivate sustained success in Las Vegas.
“I think our attitude has to change,” she said. “I think we need to be more confident. Not cocky, but we need to know that we have a good team. And we have to feed off of that.
“Every team I’ve been on, we’ve almost had that underdog mentality that if we win, it’s like, ‘Oh, cool! We won!’ No, it needs to be, ‘We’re supposed to win. We’re the better team.’ So I think if we develop that mentality, then I think it’ll take over.”
Cambage (Achilles) was listed as doubtful for the team’s season opener at home against the Los Angeles Sparks. The team will need some time to mesh in actual games.
But as fans eagerly anticipate Camabge’s 2019 debut, they can expect Hamby to be ready to step into some of the available minutes with confidence.
“I think getting a new contract, having stability will be a big load off her shoulders,” Laimbeer told High Post Hoops. “Last year as a restricted free agent, new system, new coach, new town, the whole package. She has to grow into her confidence factor. And now that she has stability, I think she’s going to have a breakout year.”
“I wanna be here. I’m gonna give my all,” Hamby said. “On different days, that may mean different things. I’m okay with that. The contract shows my value as a teammate and as a player. It’s not all about the box score. I got that contract because I play super hard on every possession; I play every game like it’s my last.”
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