As Becky Hammon‘s prolific collegiate basketball career was nearing its end, a headline in the Denver Post proclaimed that “No one will underestimate Colorado State’s Becky Hammon ever again.”
A nice thought, but alas. Two months after that headline, Hammon would go undrafted in the 1999 WNBA Draft. And that certainly wasn’t the first time — nor the last — that Hammon wouldn’t be picked.
“I’m disappointed, but the battle’s not over,” Hammon told the Fort Collins Coloradoan after the WNBA Draft. “It’s not going to end up a sad story.”
Hammon, who grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, wasn’t highly recruited out of high school.
Tom Collen, then an assistant coach at Arkansas, recounted that after seeing Hammon compete at a camp in Terre Haute, Indiana, he wrote three words next to her name: average white girl.
“I made the same mistake a lot of other top-20 programs made,” Collen, who later became the head coach at Colorado State, told the Denver Post in 1999. “I underestimated what type of potential she had, and didn’t recruit her. I saw her, but I didn’t think she was good enough to put on my list. There were a lot of coaches who felt that way.”
Hammon eventually found a home at Colorado State. But even after arriving at a college that wanted her, Hammon wasn’t initially picked. She spent the first seven games coming off the bench before earning a starting spot. She went on to finish the season as the highest scoring freshman in the nation (19.2 points per game) and, more importantly, helped Colorado State qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the CSU Rams tipped off against Nebraska, a program Hammon had attended for summer programs.
“We recruited her, but we did not scholarship her, so I’m sure she’ll have extra motivation because of that,” Nebraska head coach Angela Beck told the Omaha World Herald ahead of the game, which CSU won 66-62.
Hammon led Colorado State to two more NCAA tournament appearances, with the Rams making it as far as the Sweet 16 in her senior year. But even as the three-time All-American concluded her college career as the most decorated player in program history, she knew some people still counted her out.
“There are a lot of people who still don’t believe I deserve to have my name where it is,” Hammon said in 1999. “They don’t think I deserve to be an All–American. I know that. That’s fine. It’s the same thing with our team. People don’t believe we should be ranked fourth. That’s how it’s going to have to be, coming from the (Western Athletic Conference).
“When you come from a small conference, you have to climb hills. It’s a constant battle to get up, get up, get up. You’ve got to like it. You’ve got to like people saying you can’t do something. That’s always been my philosophy.”
While WNBA prospects always face long odds, the 1999 WNBA Draft was particularly brutal. College players were in competition with players from the American Basketball League (ABL), which folded in December 1998. Of the 50 draft picks that year, 35 came from the ABL.
“The same thing happened to me in college,” Hammon told the Fort Collins Coloradoan after she wasn’t drafted. “I wasn’t highly recruited, but I proved them wrong. I can do the same thing in the WNBA.”
One week after going undrafted, Hammon got a call from the New York Liberty inviting her to take part in training camp. She moved up her kinesiology final by a day to accommodate the invite.
Then New York Liberty coach Richie Adubato later admitted that he never expected to keep Hammon on the roster, as the team already had two point guards in Teresa Witherspoon and Coquese Washington.
“We figured two point guards are enough, but she impressed us so much with her shooting and her toughness that we had to keep her,” Adubato told the Associated Press in August 1999. “All through training camp, she just kept getting better and better.”
Hammon said going undrafted served as a spark. “If anything, it kind of put a little fire under my butt, and I just decided I was going to buckle down and I was going to make it in this league whether it was this year or a couple of years down the road.”
Hammon went on to play 16 seasons in the WNBA, finishing her career as one of the best players in league history. And though she made four trips to the WNBA Finals, she never won a title.
Along the way, she also overcame an Olympic snub. After learning that she hadn’t been invited to attend U.S. Olympic team tryouts, she agreed to represent Russia, where she played during the WNBA offseason.
“I’ve always been on the outside looking in,” she said. “The kid not picked.”
She led Russia to bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, scoring a team-high 22 points in that medal game.
As a longtime assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, many believed Hammon would become the first female NBA head coach. But the offers didn’t arrive.
Instead, the Aces called. And this time, they didn’t just pick Hammon. They courted her.
“I feel like I’m ready to have my own team. And this is the organization that made it very, very obvious they wanted me really, really bad. And so it’s always good to be wanted,” Hammon said after she was hired.
Less than a year later, she led the Aces to the franchise’s first WNBA title, becoming the first rookie head coach to win a league championship.
“My journey is not by mistake,” Hammon said after Sunday’s win. “Every hard thing that I’ve gone through has built something in me that I’ve needed down the road, and even though it sucks in the moment to not to be picked or to get hurt or whatever it might be, the hard stuff builds stuff in you that’s
necessary for life and you’ll use it down the road. It may not feel like it in that moment.
“For me, it’s not really about proving other people wrong, it’s about proving myself right.”
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC
Team USA takes aim at a fourth consecutive FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup title when the tournament kicks off Wednesday in Sydney, Australia. This is the 19th edition of FIBA’s flagship women’s event, which began in 1953 and was won by the U.S., the nation’s first of 10 World Cup gold medals to date.
The 2022 tournament features 12 nations, including world No. 3 and host Australia, 2021 Olympic silver medalist Japan and 2021 bronze medalist France. Competition begins with round-robin play between two groups. The top four teams from each group will advance to the knockout stage, where they’ll compete in a single-elimination format.
On the line: The winner punches its ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics, while valuable FIBA world ranking points are also up for grabs.
The 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup will stream in the U.S. on ESPN+, with six games also airing on linear television.
Team USA features five players hot off the WNBA Finals, including the champion Las Vegas Aces’ dynamic trio of 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, 2022 WNBA Finals MVP Chelsea Gray, and All-Star MVP Kelsey Plum. The Connecticut Sun will be represented by triple-double history-maker Alyssa Thomas and 2022 WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones. On Tuesday, U.S. head coach Cheryl Reeve said it is unlikely all 12 players will be available for the team’s first game.
*Ages are as of Sept. 20, 2022
Fresh faces highlight Team USA’s roster for Sydney, where exactly half of the U.S. players will make their debut for USA Basketball in a major international competition: Brionna Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, Kahleah Copper and Shakira Austin.
“We’re in a little bit of a transition,” said Breanna Stewart, the 2022 AP WNBA Player of the Year who’s won two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles as a member of Team USA. “But it really gives an opportunity for young players to come in and show what they’ve got and help take USA Basketball to the next level — and understand that everybody wants to beat us. Nobody wants us to win gold. And still, our goal every time that we are playing is to win the entire thing.”
The 2022 World Cup marks the first time since 2000 that the U.S. is without stalwarts Sue Bird (retired) and Diana Taurasi (injury), and it’s also missing veterans Tina Charles (opted out), Brittney Griner (detained in Russia since Feb. 17) and Sylvia Fowles (retired). Those five players have combined for a whopping 19 Olympic gold medals. Only five members of USA’s Tokyo 2021 gold-medal winning team are on the World Cup roster — Stewart, Ariel Atkins, Chelsea Gray, Jewell Loyd and A’ja Wilson — while Kelsey Plum (3×3 Olympic gold in 2021), Loyd, Stewart and Wilson are the only ones to have competed in the previous World Cup in 2018.
Additionally, the World Cup marks the first time at the helm for Team USA head coach Cheryl Reeve, who served as an assistant for the national team at the 2016 and 2021 Olympics and took over from Dawn Staley in December.
The FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney features 12 national teams, with 38 games to be played over 10 days from Sept. 22-Oct. 1. The teams start with seven days of group play, with every team playing each team in their group once. Teams earn two points for a win and one point for a draw, with the top four teams from each group advancing to the knockout stage.
Ahead of the knockout stage, a draw will be used to determine the pairings and bracket placement for the eight teams in the quarterfinals: The two best-ranked teams of each group (Group A and Group B) will be drawn against the two teams ranked third and fourth of the other group.
The tournament continues with two semifinal games on Friday, Sept. 30, with the winner of each semi advancing to the gold-medal game on Saturday, Oct. 1. The losers of each semifinal will play for bronze, also on Oct. 1.
Notably missing in Sydney: No. 2-ranked Spain, which failed to qualify; Nigeria, whose federation withdrew the team over governance issues; and Russia and Belarus, which were banned from participating due to their invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine.
The 2022 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship returns to Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas, this week for the 15th edition of the LPGA staple, which began in 2007 and has been held at Pinnacle CC since its inception. World No. 10 Nasa Hataoka from Japan leads the field as the defending champion from 2021, when she captured her second title at the Arkansas Championship and her career fifth title overall. The 23-year-old is aiming for her second victory of the season, after winning the 2022 Dio Implant LA Open in April.
The 54-hole event kicks off Friday and features 144 players competing for the $2,300,000 prize purse. The field will be cut to the top 70 and ties after 18 holes.
Coverage of the 2022 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship from Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Along with defending champ and world No. 10 Hataoka, the field features past winners Stacy Lewis (2014), Na Yeon Choi (2015) and So Yeon Ryu (2017). Other notable names in the field at Pinnacle CC include last week’s champion and first-time winner at the AmazingCre Portland Classic Andrea Lee, plus six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Golf Rankings, featuring:
Nasa Hataoka entered the final round as the co-leader and emerged victorious on Sunday following a final-round 67, earning her second title of the season with a one-stroke win over Minjee Lee and Eun-Hee Ji at the 2021 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Hataoka finished at 16-under 197, with her first and second rounds highlighted by a hole-in-one during each trip around Pinnacle CC. She made an ace during the first round at the par-3 11th hole followed up with another one during the second round at the par-3 sixth.
“My first win being here and of course the two holes-in-one, it kind of feels like it’s my power spot,” said Hataoka, who also set the tournament scoring record in 2018 with her 21-under 192 total.
Pinnacle Country Club, which opened for play in 1990, was originally designed by renowned golf-course architect Don Sechrest, with 13-time PGA Tour winner Bruce Lietzke serving as a consultant. The course, which was redesigned by Randy Heckenkemper in 2009, will play as par 71 with an official yardage of 6,438 yards.
The first official winner of the Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle CC was Seon Hwa Lee in 2008. The 2007 event was deemed unofficial as just 18 holes were completed due to weather. Stacy Lewis, who played college golf at Arkansas and was an amateur at the time, led after the first round and was declared the unofficial winner. However, Lewis officially won the title in 2014, beating the formidable trio of Lydia Ko, Christie Kerr and Angela Stanford by a stoke. Hataoka, who also won in 2018, and Yani Tseng (2010, 2011 champion) are the only players to officially win the event twice.
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