Hamson standing out in a crowd for the Sun

Mohegan — There aren’t many WNBA players who block Jonquel Jones’ shot. The second-year Connecticut Sun forward is 6-foot-6 and athletic enough to dunk. Once she gets off the floor, good luck stopping her.

It was different, then, to see Jones get stuffed by Jennifer Hamson during Tuesday's practice. Blocks come naturally for the 6-foot-7 center, and her defensive presence could earn her one of Connecticut's few remaining roster spots.

“Without question the biggest surprise three days into camp is Jen Hamson,” Sun general manager and head coach Curt Miller said during Wednesday’s media day. “She’s completely changing and altering plays around the rim. She’s absolutely affecting plays on the defensive end and is a big, rolling target on the pick and roll. Her size has really impacted camp.

“She is in a big-time battle to steal a roster spot.”

Hamson is signed to a training camp contract. She played just one season in the WNBA with the Los Angeles Sparks (2015).

“Defense has always been my favorite thing,” Hamson said. “Shot blocking especially. I just love it. The sense that you get when you stop somebody from scoring, it’s just great.”

Hamson was drafted 23rd overall (second round) by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014. She sat out that season to complete her volleyball commitments at BYU (more on that later) and played just 163 minutes in 25 games for Los Angeles in 2015. She didn’t play in the league last season.

Hamson averaged 11 points, 8.3 rebounds and 25.7 minutes with the Sydney Uni Flames during the 2016-17 Australian Women’s Basketball League.

Miller and assistant coach Steve Smith are familiar with Hamson. They were both on Los Angeles’ coaching staff in 2015 under head coach Brian Agler.

“In the WNBA, a lot of players who are role players have one specific skill set that sets them apart and allows them to stay on rosters,” Miller said. “Some people it’s shooting. Some people it’s defense. Some people it’s toughness. Some people it’s a leadership intangible, that they do all the little things.

“Jen Hamson has a defensive skill set in her size and length that is hard to teach in this league and hard to get. She is hard to score on.”

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who has won the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year twice in her four-year career, is the only player currently on a roster taller than Hamson at 6-9.

“She can be a huge presence in the frontcourt,” Miller said about Hamson. “It’s after consecutive trips up-and-down the floor, can she still be effective on both the offensive and defensive end? … People will try to be ultra-physical with her to get her thrown off her game.”

“I’m definitely on the skinny side, so physicality isn’t my strong point," Hamson said, "but I’ve learned to play to my advantages.”

Hamson has enough athleticism to play in the WNBA. She was a rarity in modern-day college athletics because she was a two-sport athlete. She played four seasons of volleyball at BYU and was the 2012 West Coast Conference Player of the Year as a junior and a 2014 All-WCC first-team selection as a redshirt senior.

Hamson was a right side hitter and finished fifth on the team in digs her final season. The latter stat is noteworthy because taller players are often subbed out for a smaller teammate when they rotate into the back-row.

“Volleyball is still a love of mine,” Hamson said. “I’m a little disappointed I don’t get to play it much anymore. I loved playing both sports. I was a really good server. I hit out of the back row. I loved playing back row.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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