PITTSBURGH — It is a Monday afternoon at Duquesne University’s Power Center and all of the women’s basketball team are shooting at hoops before a practice – all except for Amaya Hamilton.
Hamilton, who Duquesne has used as a guard this season was over beside a three-point wing working on dribbling and crossover moves, focused on her craft and becoming the best version of herself in that moment.
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“I just want to be on the court as much as I can, but also help the team as much as I can,” she said. “I don’t want to just have 20 points, I want to get rebounds, have assists and influence the game as much as I can. Every minute I can get as a freshman matters to me, so I just want to take advantage of it.”
The guard position is a new one for Hamilton which was not possible at Hamilton Southeastern High School since she was the tallest player on her team, a factor which forced her to play a post position.
When Duquesne coach Dan Burt visited Hamilton in the recruiting process, it was made clear that he saw her as a guard.
“Ever since then, I’ve just been working on my ballhandling and shooting from the perimeter to just enhance my guard skills,” said Hamilton. “I wanted to also be versatile so I could play the three or the four here at Duquesne.”
Reflecting back on that moment, Burt said the move has paid off and made him appear smart because Hamilton has put the work in.
No longer does Hamilton have to limit herself to just a few shots with extensive defending, rebounding and screening. She still has those capabilities, but now has the green light to shoot as she sees fit.
“It’s probably the only smart thing I’ve done the last couple of years if you ask my wife and assistant coaches,” Burt said. “She knows we have a total belief in her, not just based on the success she’s had but also more importantly the work and hundreds of hours of work she has already put in.”
— Duquesne Women's Basketball (@DuqWBB) December 9, 2019
How has Hamilton been able to transition into providing more guard play? The short answer has been her individual skill work sessions with assistant coach Vanessa Abel. Hamilton’s eagerness to learn and improve has only been matched by her determination to be difference maker who sees plenty of time.
“The work she has put in with Vanessa Abel individually has refined her guard game from an offensive perspective,” said Burt. “You come to the college level at a pretty dang high level and you’re being told to take 8-to-10 shots a game minimum, that’s a pretty good feeling that makes you confident.”
Though Hamilton has already impressed with her 8.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, she wants to continue to develop.
The first step towards Hamilton’s development was her decision to attend Duquesne as it meant she would focus on basketball, but also leave her family. Though offers from Ball State and Butler back home in Indiana in addition to Akron provided temptation, Hamilton saw Duquesne as the right fit athletically but more importantly academically.
Leaving her family was a hard step for Hamilton as her family is close-knit, but it did not take long for her to feel welcomed at Duquesne.
“I knew the goodbye was going to be hard, but the family aspect here at Duquesne has been really helpful,” Hamilton said. “This is your family here. It was definitely hard at first but I easily overcame my homesickness with the help of my teammates.”
Though Hamilton’s family is far away in terms of distance, they remain close as her mother sends a good morning text every day at least one family member has been present for each game.
Hamilton’s family has a background in a variety of sports and the competitive nature has stayed. As Hamilton spoke about her family, a smile came across her face describing one-on-one battles in which her brother claims to always beat her, though she states she lets him win so he does not get upset.
Not only is Hamilton’s family a consistent presence at Duquesne women’s basketball games, but they have an active Twitter account which also follows along with the team.
“My family has been so great,” said Hamilton. “I know coming here, a lot people I know stay close to home to go to school, so coming five hours away is kind of a big deal to me. One family member has been at every single one of our games so far, which is really cool. They don’t mind the five-hour drive at all, even if it is just to see one game. They always make it and it means a lot to me.”
Since being a part of Duquesne, Hamilton has had to adjust to a change in roles, something which is commonplace among freshmen. A four-year starter in high school, Hamilton has come off the bench all season, which she has handled with maturity.
“It was difficult coming off the bench but I think that motivates me more to play really hard in the minutes I do get,” she said. “The starting five for us is perfect. I feel that they are completely deserving of it, they are all such good players and I look up to them. I’m honored to come off the bench and be playing a lot. I just want to continue to play as much as possible that way in the future I hopefully can earn a starting spot. I know that I am doing everything I can, to be the best I can be. As long as we win, I don’t care about starting, I just want to finish the game.”
Often times freshmen are more reserved, observing upperclassmen lead and then later on down the line develop that voice. Already, Hamilton has shown both on and off the court that she is an exception to that norm.
“I really want to lead this team to be successful as possible,” said Hamilton. “Usually being labeled as a freshman you don’t say anything, I even told the girls that at one point. They told me they would always take what I say into consideration and be respectful. I know how fun it was winning a championship in high school, that was one of the top moments of my entire life and I really want to win an A-10 Championship here and make the NCAA Tournament with my teammates.”
Hamilton has shown the ability to lead by example whether it was scoring 17 points at Pitt, grabbing 10 rebounds against Kent State, being a force against Cornell or a putting herself in the proper positions down the stretch against Toledo.
The play against Toledo was especially critical as Duquesne was holding onto a one-point lead down the stretch of that particular game.
“I just knew that we needed to get as many possessions as possible, so I was going to crash the boards every time and get any offensive board I could to extend our time on offense,” Hamilton said. “I know we can get stops, but we also needed to score and extend the lead. That just drove me.”
As a team, Duquesne enters Sunday’s game against Saint Francis on an eight-game winning streak, won at eight different venues and the best non-conference record in the Atlantic 10, which currently allows it to be placed in ESPN’s NCAA Tournament bracketology.
Thus far, Duquesne has been able to overcome both two season-ending injuries to starters which forced the team to be brought closer and rally for each other.
“Losing the first two games motivated us,” said Hamilton. “We just needed to step up as a team. Winning as a team is way more fun than losing as individuals. We’ve been a lot better at that as a team.”
Though she is not even halfway through her first collegiate season, Hamilton has already checked one goal off her list. She has made it to and found some success at the college level. She hopes that if she continues to find success that she can go pro whether it be overseas or elsewhere after her time at Duquesne has concluded.
As for the team as a whole, Hamilton wants everyone to be as successful as possible and she has a clear definition for what that success looks like.
“Being successful to me is winning,” she said. “As long as every single one of us is getting in the gym and putting extra shots up, we know that we did everything we could to win. That is success to me, not losing at the end of the day because we did not put enough work in.”