Confident Hammond has become a U of L star

The most improved player so far this season for the University of Louisville women's basketball team has been sophomore Sara Hammond. The former Kentucky Miss Basketball has been a huge key for the Cardinals, who open play in the eight-team Hardwood Tournament of Hope on Tuesday night against Central Florida in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Sara Hammond didn't have the best freshman season last year at the University of Louisville. She did play in 32 games and averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds.

But at times, the former Kentucky Miss Basketball from Rockcastle County High School struggled with consistency and confidence for the Cardinals.

"It was so difficult," Hammond said. "I have never really faced any adversity in my life and I didn't know how to handle it. My coaches and teammates tried to help but I built a wall and was trying to get it done on my own.

"That was terrible for me. I had to get my confidence back."

U of L women's coach Jeff Walz said he spent time with Hammond after the season, working on her skills, her mental game and her confidence.

"She really worked hard in the offseason," Walz said. "We told her she had the ability, she just had to get mentally tougher and adjusted."

And so far, so good for Hammond.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore has been the most improved player on the U of L roster through three games. She's averaging a second-best 10.7 points a game and leads the team with 9.3 rebounds a contest.

"Her focus more in the game is the biggest thing," sophomore guard Bria Smith said. "She knows what she needs to do. During her freshman year, I think she was kind of unsure what she needed to do and now she's doing it."

Hammond has hit 13 of 31 from the field and 6 of 11 free throws, while she's also second on the team in steals with seven and third in assists with four.

"I put in a lot of work and coach (Walz) kind of challenged me after last year, "Hammond said. "He said I had the talent and ability and potential, but I had to be willing to work hard. When I got to college it was a mental thing.

"Coach Walz knows that physically we can do it. He wants us to get mentally tough and that's what I had to get through."

Walz said Hammond is only scratching the surface on how solid she can be on the floor, while Hammond said she can tell a difference.

"My confidence has gone from 10 percent to 120 percent," she said.

U of L will play Central Florida on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

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