Sparks' Dearica Hamby: 'I put myself in position to go to the Olympics'

Sparks forward Cameron Brink sustains an injury and assisted off the court by Sparks forward Dearica Hamby

Dearica Hamby went into the WNBA season with the mindset that she would be on Team USA in July. She manifested it, dreamed it, vocalized it. It's something she has always done, projecting her goal into the stratosphere and doing everything she can to achieve it.

That made the last couple of weeks very interesting.

After not making the original U.S Olympic 3x3 basketball team, Hamby was named to the team Monday, replacing teammate Cameron Brink — who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee last week in the Sparks’ loss to the Connecticut Sun.

Hamby has already found success despite being relatively new to 3x3 basketball, having been named MVP of the 2023 3x3 AmeriCup and taking part in the national team’s camp in Springfield, Mass., in April. It's the confidence from these showings that fueled Hamby's thoughts about being a good fit for the team originally.

“I felt like I put myself in position to get on that team,” Hamby said. "So it was a bit heartbreaking, but at the same time I was happy and excited for [Brink]. It's ironic how the situation has played out. It's been a bit hard to be super excited because my heart is also still broken for [Brink], but I'm trying to change my perspective because I put myself in position to go to the Olympics also.”

Read more: Dearica Hamby to replace injured Cameron Brink on U.S. Olympic 3x3 team

Hamby and Brink have grown particularly close since becoming teammates, and their support of each other has continued since Brink’s injury. For Sparks coach Curt Miller, it's been a wave of mixed emotions watching the veteran thrive and star rookie face a season-ending injury, but it’s their bond that makes him proud.

“I’m heartbroken for [Brink],” Miller said. “I wish her the best but two things can be true at the same time. Really happy it was [Hamby] who had the opportunity to replace her. She put herself in a good position, and has had a great start. I'm excited for her … it was well-earned in a tough situation. But I’m really proud of how those two have really supported each other.”

For Hamby, being named to the Olympic roster wasn’t a total surprise, as there had been conversions prior to Brink’s injury of her being an alternate.

“These things happen. It was just unfortunate that it happened to [Brink],” Hamby said. “It's going to be a good opportunity for her to step back from the game. It will be a year for her to just come back stronger mentally, emotionally, and so I'm excited for her comeback. “

Hamby will join Cierra Burdick, Rhyne Howard and Hailey Van Lith on the 3x3 roster — although the status of Howard is in question because she is out indefinitely with an ankle injury she suffered while playing for the Atlanta Dream.

Hamby says the current roster brings a combination of versatility that will make them successful on the court. She also has playing experience with Burdick, whom she played with in Las Vegas.

“Howard is one of the biggest scorers in the game and also kind of new to 3x3 but she's a hooper so she should be fine,” Hamby said. “[Burdick] brings leadership and experience with 3x3 and Hailey is just a little spark. I spent some time with her at camp and she brings a mid-range game and toughness to the game.”

According to Miller, Hamby brings a “motor” that will be important to the team and perfect for 3x3 basketball, a fast-paced, physical game that requires a lot of speed and agility — versatility — that Hamby says has been an advantage in her WNBA career.

Read more: Sparks’ Dearica Hamby utilizes strong mentality to thrive in L.A. and inspire teammates

The two-time Sixth Woman of the Year has been a key playmaker for the Sparks this season, but her strong play all over the court has also been hard on her body, making the upcoming weeks before the Olympics vital in preventing burnout and keeping in game shape.

“She's really hurting right now, “ Miller said of Hamby. “People don't realize how sore she is and beat down from carrying the load for us, but she still shows up to each and every game for us.”

Hamby said she looks forward to July, and a second trip to Paris — the first being a vacation that she said was more bitter cold than anything. Besides the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics, this trip will be extra special for Hamby because she gets to experience it with her family and two kids, Amaya and Legend.

“I knew she was a special person and player, but she's really had a remarkable year,” Miller said. “What she did was remarkable but to watch her come into camp physically, and perhaps more important mentally ready, and being vocal about her goals, including the Olympics, has been amazing. She's carried that confidence and that’s what has gotten her here.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.