As the sport of basketball continues to grow in Canada, many children have a ball in their hands at the age of five. With many clubs offering youth programs, young girls have the opportunity to compete at a high level from an early age. This was not the case for Houston, B.C native, Ruth Hamblin, who didn’t start playing basketball until she was in high school.
Hamblin, who is one of the few Canadians to land a WNBA contract, has also played professionally in Australia, and whose name you can now find on the Canadian Women’s Senior Team’s roster, had a lot of catching up to do, after starting in the sport so late.
“Growing up basketball wasn’t even on my radar,” she said, referring to her childhood, which was spent riding horses on her family’s farm, but after picking up a ball for the first time in grade nine she was hooked, “I’m one of those ‘go big or go home’ people, so after probably a year of playing I decided that I wanted to go to the Olympics.”
It was a lofty goal for a girl who had only just started, “I had no idea at that point how far I was from getting there, but it’s crazy to think of what has happened in-between,” Hamblin said of her ambition.
Hamblin attended Houston Christian School, a small school where almost everyone played sports. She joined the basketball team as a way of spending more time with her friends, “being really tall helped,” she said of her initial experience, “I learned how to keep the ball high, and there wasn’t anyone near my height in high school.”
As a senior, she averaged 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 blocks per game, numbers that made it look like she had quickly caught up to the level of her teammates, but Hamblin said she was always playing catch-up, “It was really overwhelming to see how far I had to go, even though I had come so far.”
Following her successful high school career, Hamblin attended Oregon State to study mechanical engineering, and play on the school’s Division I women’s team.
“Once I started playing on the provincial team and at Oregon State, the learning curve got really steep,” she said.
By her sophomore year, Hamblin was starting every game, and set a school record with 141 blocks. By her senior year, she had set the Pac-12 record for career blocks and was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year.
Following her graduation, the Dallas Wings selected Hamblin in the second round of the 2016 WNBA draft, and playing in the WNBA fulfilled part of Hamblin’s dream to represent her country.
“It’s awesome to be Canadian and play in the best league in the world,” she said, “to act as pioneer for young Canadians who want to play in the WNBA is amazing, to let them know that it is possible for them to get there is really important.”
But after only one season playing for Dallas, Hamblin made the decision to skip the 2017 WNBA season to try out for the 2018 World Cup roster, a decision that her 14-year-old self would be proud of.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, because everyone wants to play in the WNBA,” she said, reflecting on her choice, “but for me, I had to assess my priorities, and that is representing my country at the Olympics.”
Tokyo 2020 represents her first chance at accomplishing one of her biggest goals, “I knew that I had to take this summer, be a part of the team, and invest my self into the program, and give it my best shot.”
Hamblin made the most of her summer with the National Team. The women defended their FIBA Americas title with a 67-65 win over Argentina, and secured a spot in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2018, following a 84-45 win over Brazil, making Hamblin’s Olympic dream that much closer to being a reality.
Despite being at the top of her game, Hamblin refuses to slow down, “just in the past few years [the learning curve] has lessened,” she said of where she feels her game is at, “I’m always learning, but now I don’t feel like I’m playing catch up anymore.”
Bettering herself with Tokyo 2020 in mind continues to be her goal, “there’s a lot of things I’m working on, but I think being a super dominant low post, offensively and defensively, is my focus,” she said of how she plains to help Team Canada, “being strong enough, fast enough, and being a “go to” presence in the post is what I need to do to help Canada compete.
Written By: Sarah Reid