Ra'anan Zarfati's Interview with Shamela Hampton, January 2014 for SAFSAL ("Bench" – Leading Israeli Internet Basketball site)
This week I met with the dynamic center player of Ramat Hasharon, Shamela Hampton (26, 1.90m) to talk about basketball, community contribution and even some advices for the league. Shamela proudly leads the field goal rate in the Israeli women league and boasts rates of 15.5 points per game, 8.9 rebounds. She started the year in France, Nantes (the city where Jul Verne was born), played there 6 games and then went to play in Israel for Ramat Hasharon. She studied and played at UNLV College and already played in France, Italy and Greece. She points out that she is luck to play basketball, that Brahsheedah Elohim always makes her laugh and that she would like to coach "the day after".
Q: This year you lead the league with 61.3% of field goal, after having just around 50% during your professional career. What do you think is the reason for this significant improvement?
First of all, I didn't know that. Second, I'm a center player, playing close to the basket, that's my job (shy smile).
Q: True, but you played center in France, Italy and Greece and the numbers were different…
Right, I think it is all about trying to throw well and not impose myself on the game. In France I played 6 games and neither me nor the team hit it well. I changed my thinking, that I need to work harder and focus. Nothing is taken for granted and I need to use the opportunity of playing here. In addition, the team believes in me and gives me confidence. I suppose that helps too.
Q: You acquired experience in 4 different leagues. What insight do you have regarding the Israeli league?
The league is great and I'm glad to play for Ramat Hasharon. It is a competitive league and there are some high quality Israeli players. Yet we need more audience. In Italy and France there's a large crowd at the games. Maybe more community activity is needed for people to know us, appreciate that we are nice and then come to cheer. Personal contact with the fans is of top priority, if you want to raise awareness and bring more crowd to watch the games.
Q: Regarding community activity, I understand you had a special experience.
We travelled to Sderot and had the pleasure of practicing and playing with the kids. That made them happy. There were kids from a few schools in the neighborhood and we had a good time. The meeting with the children was very exciting and we left the place with a sense of satisfaction. It's a privilege to feel that you contribute to community.
Q: There's a kind of legend saying that American players prefer to play in Israel, even if it means that they give up a better price offer. Is it true?
This is not a legend, it's really a home here, especially for me, as an American. People are very nice here and speak good English, surely in comparison to France, where people don't make the effort to talk to you in English. In addition, the food here is great and I would definitely want to play here next season.
Q: What's the difference between home and away games?
At our home gym we are used to the rings, we have our crowd of fans.
Q: Yes, but you are, after all, a professional player?
I feel that now there is chemistry in our team and we can play better outside as well.
Q: Do you feel comfortable in Israel, in comparison to other places?
Our practice sessions are intensive 1.5 hours. In Europe the practice is sometimes 2.5 hours or two practices a day, and you feel it in your body. The first two years of college we had a Marathon runner as a coach, and she made us run a lot.
Q: What do the league management and the local players need to improve?
Your Israeli players are good. Maybe if I stay here longer I will be able to point at something that can be improved..
Q: WNBA… Frustration? Choice?
It was my dream. Now there is politics there and they are trying to bring in big names. If I get the chance, then fine, but I want to play rather that sit on the bench and serve only as a practice player. I can say that last summer it was difficult for me. I saw players that I know get their chance, while I didn't get mine yet. If it happens I'll be happy but if not, it won't break my heart.
Q: It seems you take it peacefully, which is a healthy approach.
Indeed. In fact, that's the only time to be on vacation with my family, since during the season I play far away from home. It's not easy to be away for a few months each year, but as a basketball player, I cannot refuse those job offers. This is my profession and source of income. Again, as I said before, nothing should be taken for granted, and there are many players who don't have a job right now. So, I'm definitely happy.
Q: The best player you played with or against?
The best player I played against was Kia Vaugn, in Italy. She's my age and my role model. She's a great person and a very physical player. Another player I really admire is Sheryl Ford, who does double-double almost every game. She really understands the game. I have a lot of work to do to reach that level.
Q: Your expectations regarding the semi-final cup game against Ashdod. You'll have a hard time against Tiffany Jackson and Danielle Adams?
Yes, it will be tough. Tiffany played very well against us. They can score easily.
The right to summarize this interview was given to Orna Ostfeld, the coach of Ramat Hasharon:
"We are very happy to have Shamela playing in our team. She's a charming and special person, who cares a lot about the team. She adds physical attributes to the game and contributes both professionally and socially."