Bre Hampton-Bey has always played with energy.
“That’s how it’s always been,” she said. “I’ve just always been with a lot of energy.”
That energy is on full display when watching her play for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team. Hampton-Bey flies around the court, always trying to get her hands in passing lanes or pushing the ball up the court.
“She has a really high energy,” senior captain Jessica George said. “It’s amazing to be her teammate and see that happen in person.”
It’s the same energy that caught the attention of colleges when she was only in middle school. Hampton-Bey committed to Michigan to play basketball before she had even played her first minute of high school basketball in eighth grade.
“She came on my radar when she was in junior high school,” coach Tory Verdi said. “I was coaching at Eastern Michigan, she’s from Toledo, and we were looking at her. But, unfortunately, she committed to the University of Michigan.”
Six years after committing to Michigan, Hampton-Bey is playing for Verdi at UMass and is expected to provide the spark for a team on the rise.
It was during her eighth-grade year that Hampton-Bey began to approach basketball differently.
“I just wanted to play basketball, do it for fun,” Hampton-Bey said. “But then it started turning into something that I’d do every day, something that I want to do for a living maybe in the future.”
Hampton-Bey’s newfound energy in the game was rewarded with a stellar high school career split between Rogers High School and Notre Dame Academy. Her high school career culminated in a Northwest District Player of the Year honor and two state championship appearances for her Eagles.
“[Notre Dame Academy] has prepared me academically and on the court as well,” Hampton-Bey said. “So, I’m just happy that I could easily transfer from there to here.”
On top of being a standout basketball player, Hampton-Bey channeled her energy during the offseason into other sports.
“I would do volleyball or cross country,” Hampton-Bey said, “just do what I had to do just to stay in shape for basketball.”
Before Hampton-Bey’s senior season at Notre Dame Academy, she decided to decommit from Michigan and reopen her recruiting.
“I wanted to go somewhere really far from home,” Hampton-Bey said. “I didn’t want to be anywhere close.”
Verdi had just taken the job at UMass, having yet to coach his first game, when Hampton-Bey announced she was reopening her recruitment.
“I knew of her way back when and then she decommitted from Michigan,” Verdi said. “When she became available again and when I took over this job, I immediately knew that we needed someone of her abilities and went after her.”
Verdi’s recruiting pitch must have worked, as Hampton-Bey committed to the Minutewomen after her senior year. UMass was in the middle of a 9-21 season, but she was undeterred.
“I just wanted to experience life and UMass was just the perfect place,” Hampton-Bey said. “A place I can get playing time, a good campus, good academics, good coaching staff and great players all around. Everything here is just great.”
Since coming to Amherst, the point guard has become a staple of the starting five, and a valuable contributor on both ends of the floor. As a freshman, Hampton-Bey averaged 11.2 points per game while being a defensive stalwart for the Minutewomen. As a result, Hampton-Bey was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team.
Hampton-Bey credits her successful season to her high-energy play, particularly on the defensive end. After all, it is what she is known for.
“I think [I’m known for] my defense,” Hampton-Bey said, “getting after people and being really aggressive and how strong I am. I think that’s what a lot of people see when they come out there, like ‘she’s got a lot of energy, she’s aggressive, she’s all over the place.’”
Hampton-Bey’s specialty, as she calls it, doing the “crazy stuff.” It stems from the energy she has always had.
“I always want to do the crazy stuff,” Hampton-Bey said, “get the turnover. I always want to do the dirty work, the stuff that people don’t usually want to do.”
The “crazy stuff” is a product of Hampton-Bey’s competitive nature. Something that has been with her every step of the way in her basketball journey.
Her energy, hustle plays and drive to win are at the root of Bre Hampton-Bey as a basketball player, and it is why teammates love to play with her.
“I love Bre,” junior captain Hailey Liedel said. “She’s just such a high-energy player. She’s always on the go. It’s just fun because she’s really competitive, she always wants to win.”
Hampton-Bey’s relentless nature is not the only thing that makes her so tough to play against, it’s also her athleticism.
“I think she’s probably one of the strongest point guards in the A-10.” Verdi said. “Her ability to attack the rim is something that is kind of unseen in the A-10. Defensively her quickness, she has the ability to get steals and pick opposing players because of her hand quickness. Her athleticism is unparalleled.”
While the Minutewomen enjoyed relative success last season, a 14-16 record and 6-10 record in the A-10, Hampton-Bey was the third option on a team featuring Leidel outside and Maggie Mulligan at center.
On top of having to replace Mulligan’s production, the Minutewomen will also look to Hampton-Bey for leadership.
“She has to lead us, she has to lead us on the floor,” Verdi said of how his point guard can take the next step this season. “She has to be more vocal, she has to do a better job communicating, she has to understand that when we do face adversity, we have to come together.”
The leadership Verdi is talking about is something Hampton-Bey thinks she is ready for, especially after learning from the senior class her freshman season.
“I just take what [the seniors] showed us last year and apply it to this team,” Hampton-Bey said, “use some of the strengths and weaknesses that they had [as leaders] and try to apply it to this team. I think they did a really good job leaving an impact on us and showing us the ropes of being a college player.”
This year, without Mulligan, more of a load is going to be placed on Hampton-Bey to be a playmaker for the UMass offense. While she showed flashes last year, like her 31-point outburst against VCU, Hampton-Bey will be expected to be a consistent scoring threat night in and night out for the Minutewomen.
“She’s going to have to make plays for us, on both sides of the ball,” Verdi said about Hampton-Bey’s upcoming season. “We’re not just talking about offense, we’re talking about defense as well. But the ball is going to be in her hands, it’s going to be in her hands a lot and we need her to facilitate and create for us.”
And while Verdi knows that he will need that kind of production out of Hampton-Bey for his team to continue their accent in the A-10, he also expects it. He has seen Hampton-Bey grow as a player since watching her tape as a middle schooler in Ohio. He has seen her growth up close in just over a year since she has been on campus.
“She’s grown the most with her composure, number one,” Verdi said of her improvement this offseason. “Her left hand has gotten better, and she’s constantly been working on her jump shot too.”
Regardless of what Bre Hampton-Bey has added to her offensive arsenal over the past offseason, her game will always be predicated on doing the “crazy stuff.”
“I always want to steal the ball make a pass, like crazy stuff. I always want to dive on the floor and steal the ball, I like getting into people’s heads,” Hampton-Bey said, flashing a smile at her last point.
A lot of UMass’ success in the 2018-19 campaign will hinge on how Hampton-Bey performs. She won’t let that change how she approaches every game, though.
“I have to come with the mindset that I can be the best in the league,” Hampton-Bey said. “Just to prove a point, just to be sure that everybody notices me every time I step on the floor. Go hard every game, so everyone knows who I am.”
Noah Bortle can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.
(Photos by Katherine Mayo and Caroline O'Connor)