This season, junior Veja Hamilton has become the queen of the TCU women’s basketball team.
In the chess game Horned Frogs coach Raegan Pebley must play on the court, Hamilton is the piece that can be put at any position in Pebley’s system and be successful.
And with an efficient scoring touch Hamilton has found through conference play, she can fill almost any role her team needs at any given moment in a game.
“It’s so valuable to have a player that you can keep on the floor and doesn’t get stuck in only one position,” Pebley said.
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In Big 12 play, Hamilton leads TCU in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game, good enough for fourth in the conference, while shooting 56.1 percent from the field, also fourth in the conference.
If you would have asked Hamilton, a Spring native, before the season began, she wouldn’t have seen herself in this role with this kind of success.
“I think before the season, I kind of felt my role was just to be a passer, a rebounder, pretty much anything I could do contributing other than scoring,” Hamilton said. “I think I was just a rebounder, just anything I could do. It was never my role to be a scorer.”
In fact, the 5-foot-10 guard/forward didn’t see much court time in the first few games of the season because of difficulty adapting to the practice habits of a new coaching staff.
It took a meeting between Hamilton and Pebley early in December for both to get onto the same page.
“Our whole coaching staff just altered some of the ways in which we were coaching her as a result of that meeting and something I learned and how she learns best,” Pebley said. “So, from literally that meting on, I feel like there was an about-face. We were better coaching her. She was better in practice.”
The fruits of that labor ripened in TCU’s nonconference finale Dec. 30 against UC Irvine when Hamilton, a young junior who entered TCU as a 16-year-old freshman, posted a career-high 24 points, going 11 for 14 from the field.
“I just remember once I got in the game and I hit a couple in a row and my teammates were so excited for me,” Hamilton said. “I think that’s what gave me the confidence to keep shooting it ... seeing my teammates happy for me and celebrating like that.”
Hamilton has posted double-digit point totals in 10 of her last 11 games, matching her career total of 10 through her first two years at TCU.
More than the point totals, Hamilton is most proud of the efficiency with which she has played this season. But her baskets haven’t all come from in the paint or from high-percentage layups.
She is “The Mid-Range Killer.”
While most of collegiate women’s basketball is played around the blocks or outside the 3-point line, Hamilton thrives in the unpainted area between the lane and the arc.
It’s a talent that has caught the eye of other coaches in the Big 12.
“You’ve got about 10 women in the country that can shoot mid-range jumpers, and she can shoot a mid-range jumper as good as anyone I’ve seen,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Mix that range with a shot release high above her head, and Hamilton has put together a shooting formula that is difficult to guard.
Add the support of teammates and a new offensive system that plays more to Hamilton’s strengths and the result is a surprise success streak for one of the program’s more humble players.
“It’s kind of a surreal thing, because looking back on the past couple years I’ve had here, I’ve been a very low-key, under-the-radar player,” Hamilton said. “I’ve never been a player that’s been talked about, honestly. Having another coach that thinks about me that way is a great feeling, and I want to continue to surprise people with my game.”
TCU (12-7, 4-4 Big 12) welcomes No. 14 Texas (15-4, 4-4) to the University Recreation Center on Sunday with a chance to re-create one of Hamilton’s favorite moments at TCU: beating Texas 54-48 last season in Fort Worth, snapping a 32-game losing streak to the Longhorns.
“I’m not going to say they’re our rivals or anything,” Hamilton said, “but that’s one of those teams we were always gunning for and we continue to gun for.”
No. 14 Texas at TCU
Records: TCU 12-7, 4-4 Big 12; Texas 15-4, 4-4
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