2005-06-24 / Sports

Hammon Leads The Way At Point For New York Liberty

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist


TARRYTOWN, NY – At 5’6”, New York Liberty point guard Becky Hammon can be considered undersized, even for the WNBA.

But, she doesn’t let that get in her way. In fact, Hammon uses it to her advantage.

“It’s the only thing I know,” the Liberty floor general said with a smile. “I use my head and I never let my height discourage me. I just take what the defense gives me and create for me and my teammates. The positive thing about being so short is that no one wants to get down low with me.”

What her height gives her is blazing speed that allows her to run right by bigger defenders. It gives her more opportunities to find open teammates, since she sometimes needs to be double teamed.

“When I am able to get by, it forces people to help and we can get some open shooters,” she added. “I work hard out there to get them shots. But things will open things up for me eventually, but right now it’s fun to pick defenses apart.”

Breaking down the opposing team is Hammon’s specialty. The seven year WNBA veteran has been compared to NBA All-Star Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, since she is able to dish the ball off so creatively, but can take the scoring workload as well. She is the engine that drives the Liberty offense, who is also a coach on the floor.

“The coaches and management and told me what they wanted from me,” she said. “I’m out there calling a lot of plays from [Liberty coach] Patty [Coyle], so I am an extension of Patty. Point guard is the hardest position for any league and it’s my responsibility for everyone to play. They look to me for direction.”

It wasn’t always that way for the South Dakota native. Hammon, 28, came off the bench for the first five years of her career. She was a top sixth person in the league that came in and provided a spark New York when it needed it.

“Coming in off the bench was something I used to take a lot of pride in,” Hammon said. “I used to come in and made sure I brought a spark. When you are coming in off the bench, you have a lot more time to observe things, then go in and make them pay.”

But, that’s in the past and now she has seemed to have settled into the starting job, which she took over in 2004.

“It was a little bit of a different adjustment,” she said. “As a starter you have a lot more pressure on you and everyone is a lot more juiced because it’s the first part of the game.”

It also allows her to emulate her favorite player Michael Jordon. As a girl, there was no WNBA for her to follow, so she took to the Chicago Bulls and learned her game from watching the NBA’s all-time player.

“One thing I have to my game is his creativity,” she said “I had posters of Michael Jordon all over my wall growing up and I watched him on TV. I never saw an NBA game in person as a kid. He was the man back in the day, but now it’s Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury or Jason Kidd. But, I try to be me out there.”

And that’s all the Liberty wants. Hammon, who has lead New York to three straight wins and is now sitting at 5-4, had a scare in 2003 when she tore her ACL and was limited to only 11 games. It was something that made her a better player, since she learned a valuable lesson.

“Patience was my best friend and now it gives me no problems,” Hammon said. “I see guys and girls get knee injuries and they try to press and re-injure it. I was lucky and fortunate to let my knee heals.”

The former Colorado State star is a small town girl, who has taken to the New York lifestyle. Even though she does go home to South Dakota, Hammon considers herself an adopted New Yorker.

That has its advantages, since she also has access to New York’s other basketball team.

“Isiah [Thomas] comes in here and chats,” she said. “I told him the other day that he needs to give me advice. I need to use all the tools at my disposal.”

She is truly taking advantage of all her skills.

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