Statistically, there might not be a higher honor for an NCAA point guard than to be the leader in assists per game among the nation’s Division I teams.
That’s where you’ll find Ny Hammonds’ name these days.
At least theoretically, the Charlotte 49ers’ junior, and former Concord Spider, is one of the best players in the country at her position.
If only she could believe that.
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During her college career, Hammonds’ humility has sometimes smothered her own confidence. Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra says that Hammonds is finally starting to understand just how good she is.
“It’s (going to take) talking to her and telling her how great she can be,” said Consuegra, in her second year at Charlotte. “I was a point guard. Karen Lange, my top assistant, was a point guard. Both of us can see it in her, and it was just a matter of pulling it out.
“They need to know you have confidence in them. While we stayed on Ny, we also told her, ‘Look, this is how great you can be.’ I think she got to the point where she said, ‘OK, I’m ready to do it.’ ”
Through this season’s first 10 games, Hammonds was averaging 7.4 assists per game to help the Niners to an 8-2 record. The NCAA releases statistical leaders every week, and Hammonds’ name has been at the top of that category throughout the entire season.
A role player during her first two seasons, Hammonds is having a breakout year. Consuegra has put her complete trust in her junior guard, directing her to dictate each game’s tempo with her ball distribution and her in-your-face half-court defense.
Just two years ago, however, Hammonds’ confidence was at an all-time low. Playing as a freshman for coach Karen Aston, Hammonds misinterpreted the coaching staff’s prodding and read it as overbearing criticism.
She averaged just five minutes of playing time over 22 games. Still, Hammonds was close to Aston and was disappointed that the coach resigned at the end of the season.
Last year, Hammonds was determined to make a good impression on Consuegra and the new staff. She was on the court about five times as much as her freshman year and averaged more than five points and more than three assists per game.
Hammonds didn’t realize that Consuegra was ready to give her the keys to the Niners’ floor game until after the 2011-12 season was complete. Entering this season, Consuegra convinced Hammonds that she could be an all-conference point guard.
“I still deal with confidence issues,” said Hammonds. “I don’t know why, but I still do. I just try to humble myself. I don’t want to get outside of the box and lose my focus.
“Too much confidence can make you lose your focus. I play with a lot of confidence, but deep, down inside, I’m iffy about some things.”
At Concord High, Hammonds was the MVP of the state championship game as a sophomore, when the Spiders won the 3A title in 2008. She was recruited by Appalachian State and Western Carolina but when Aston offered her a scholarship, Hammonds was so thrilled that she considered the recruiting game over.
Hammonds was happy to be close to home so that her family and friends could watch her play. Mother Lisa Hill, father Kevin Hammonds, her siblings, grandparents and nieces are all regulars at Niner home games.
“It means a lot to Ny to play for Charlotte, maybe more than some of our other players,” said Consuegra. “She’s proud representing her school and representing her family, and I know there’s no other place she’d rather be.”
After all, you can’t cheer for the “Niners” without first saying “Ny.”