BearShare: Devanei Hampton


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By Viet Nguyen, Staff Writer
Posted Dec 24, 2014
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2015

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Devanei and family

Devanei Hampton, one of Cal’s greats, returned to Berkeley this fall. Named an undergraduate student coach, she currently assists the coaching staff while getting the chance to complete her degree.

As a player from 2005-2009, Hampton was as responsible as anyone for turning around the fortunes of California women’s basketball. A top player out of Oakland Tech, she and teammate Alexis Gray-Lawson headlined the stellar 2005 recruiting class that, along with then-new-coach Joanne Boyle, made Cal immediately relevant.


In her four years as a Bear, Hampton helped Cal to four NCAA Tournament appearances and earned multiple personal accolades, including three times being named to the All Pac-10 First Team. Her best season was as a sophomore, when she averaged 16.6 points and eight rebounds per game and became Cal’s first Pac-10 Player of the Year. Hampton finished her career as one of the best in school history, with 1588 points (8th), 876 rebounds (5th), and 78 blocks (8th). She was twice named to the Associated Press and WBCA All-American teams (HM).

The Bear Insider recently caught up with Devanei Hampton for a wide-ranging chat: since she last put on a Cal uniform, Hampton has played professionally overseas, suffered a career-ending injury, and had a baby (and has another on the way).

But more than a series of events, Hampton shares with us a journey of perseverance, personal growth, and family. And above all, it’s a story about a woman determined to make good on her second chances.



Bear Insider: Let’s start with what brought you back to Cal? I’m curious to learn about how this opportunity came up for you.

Devanei Hampton: I wanted to come back to school to complete my degree, but there was sense of urgency after I had my son in 2013. I was working at a group home in San Rafael, and there were some ups and downs, and some good that I took away, but I learned that wasn’t for me. A couple years back, before I got pregnant with my son, I was coaching a little bit at San Jose City College, and I really enjoyed it. But then I got pregnant, so I thought, let me get a consistent job, a steady-paying job. But I knew that ultimately, I needed to come back here. I applied for the NCAA scholarship in 2011, and they denied me. But it was coincidence, or I say, fate, that I had my son, and then, Lindsay was here. And I told her I’m interested in coaching and completing my degree. And then I finally got accepted, and they gave me another scholarship to complete my degree. So I’m in the process of doing that.

Wow. That’s a lot of balls in the air, and I definitely want to ask you about all that. But first, clarify for me, you were working at a group home for kids?

It’s an all-boys group home called St. Vincent’s School for Boys. I was there for a little over two years, and I liked it. I thought I wanted to go the social worker route, but being there and dealing with the emotions and everything that goes on with molested, abandoned, schizophrenic kids, I just realized, I can’t do that.

It wears on you…

It was something I enjoyed for a short time, and then I got tired of it. Basketball is my passion, and by me not being able to play anymore because of my knee, I feel like that I can offer the kids now my own insight of what I took from being a professional athlete and a college athlete here at Cal.

What are your current responsibilities with the team?

Initially, I was supposed to be on the floor, playing with the girls, having more of one-on-one. But I found out I was pregnant again, and it kind of shifts everything with me, so while I’m learning to be a coach from Lindsay, the back-end, I also get to complete my degree while being a full-time mom.

So yeah, scouting reports, the programs that they use for computers... I ask them a bunch of questions on different sets we run, when would you do this, when would you do that? And everything is just different, seeing things being off the floor then doing it on the floor. I help out with some of the post players with Jeff, and post drill breakdowns. And I get to listen to them about what they think the team should do. And Lindsay also asks me what I think! So I’m just fortunate and in a good place.

You sound thrilled that Lindsay asks for your opinion.

Yeah! Lindsay is very very smart, on the court and off the court, and I’m just learning everything I can to take away from here while leaving here, moving forward—or stay here, hopefully—is always a plus.

I do want to talk about your relationship with Lindsay, because it goes way back. But first I want to talk about schooling and that part of your journey. How much time do you have left to finish?

After this semester, I have two classes left. Seeing that I am due in March, I am taking a reduced course load. So I will be still interning here, and taking one mainstream class, and a Family Resource class in which I want to bridge student parenting and athletics together. So that will be my focus next semester. I will be at six units, and I will graduate in May, and then I have to take one summer class, because that class is offered this spring, but it requires full attention—well, everything at Berkeley requires my full time, but with having a baby and trying to come back within that time frame this spring, I will be behind. So the reduced course load for me is the best route. So I did as much as I can, load up my plate up a bunch this semester, so that I could be in this situation for spring.

And what will you graduate in?

Social Welfare.

One of the things that came to mind for me, when I heard about your return, was not only what you could do for the team on the court, because you were a great player for sure, but I thought about the idea of how your journey could be an inspiration to others in terms of showing how you persevere. Because it doesn’t sound like it was an easy road.

Yeah. After I had my son, me and my kid’s father, Marcus Senior, we moved to Fairfield. And I actually had more classes to do, but I wrote to Solano Junior College, and I took some online classes there, and some recreational classes to help me to get back into shape. I also went to Laney for some classes, before I was able to say, “Now I am ready to come back to Cal.” But my kid’s dad, he is in the Santa Clara County Sheriff Academy, so we had to move really fast, because the commute would have been terrible. So being able to finish, I consider it a true blessing.

So you were making progress along the way in terms of earning units, with the  intention to finish your degree one day, whether at Cal or elsewhere…

No, I always knew I would finish at Cal. I knew the importance of finishing at Cal. It’s just doing the back end of it, what I could do there is a lot cheaper, and have more flexibility. But I wasn’t pregnant then. So I had my son, school, and then we would drive from Fairfield all the way to Oakland to drop my son off, then drive to Marin to get to work. So, it’s been a little, a little road, getting here.

And that’s the road you can share with other people, in terms of showing them the importance of sticking with it, keep going. Can you talk about what happened, when you finished playing, what happened academically that you were not able to complete your degree then?

Mentally, I don’t think I was focused. I was more concerned with being financially stable for my family and for myself, so I was looking at a different picture of the short-term goal instead of finishing and looking at that as the long-term. I kind of just took that year off and focused on basketball, which landed me a career in Poland. I was pretty successful over there. I was there for that year, and then came back here for the summer. Then I got another job in Israel, and I was there for a couple of months and then I hurt my knee again. So I was like, oh God, what am I going to do now?

Well, I needed to get a job. Lynne Gray, Courtney and Ashley Paris’s mom, she knew someone who was principal at a local charter school, and she got me a teaching assistant job there right after I came back. So I worked there for the rest of the school year, and then tried to figure out what to do.

At one point and time, I was working four jobs. I was trying to compensate for losing the money from playing overseas, and try to maintain living here. I was coaching at SJCC, working in a group home in San Jose, doing in-home care, and then got a job as a sub in Marin. I was all over the place, just working myself to death. And I thought, this cannot be life. I started dating my kid’s father, Marcus Sr., and we sat down and wrote out our goals, what we wanted to do, because he played at Weber State. He wanted to be a sheriff, and I said I wanted to finish school, so we mapped out the path that we should go. But everything doesn’t go as planned…

Baby comes along…


So when you sat down and mapped out your life together, that was the moment you really committed to returning to Cal and finishing here. So then you applied for that scholarship the first time but didn’t get it…

To be honest, I don’t think I put as much effort into the process then as I did this time. So I got denied. And I went to night classes.

Was that also the issue academically—lack of effort—in your first few years here at Cal?

Well, actually, the first two, three years, I actually did pretty well. Lindsay, who was my post coach before she left, we did homework together. I did well. But at that point and time, being a kid, you don’t have anything to worry about, just go to school and go to practice. You take all that stuff for granted. You think that basketball was always going to be here. I always had knee issues, but I thought, I could always rehab and go back and do that whole process over again. But looking at the people above me, the WNBA; I felt that my value got dropped as a player, and I was like, “Dang!”

But after basketball, I couldn’t worry about what I did then. I need to worry about what to do now, and my son, little Marcus, he helped me realize that it’s not about me; it’s about him, and what I need to do is set him up for his future, and what I need to do to prepare myself for him. That was my whole wake-up moment. And everything I do now—I’m tired and I’m sleepy, but look over at him, and it’s like, OK, we’ve got to go.

Lots of life lessons to pass on, yeah?

Yes. A bunch!

Listening to you, it seems clear to me that you have recognized that your life is different, that your goals are different, and that you are serving someone else now, so to speak.

Yeah. It’s called maturing over the years.

Tell us about little Marcus Junior!

Oh God. He’s mischievous. He’s independent. He’s definitely independent. He’s the size of a three year old, and he’s only 19 months. He keeps me on my toes. He’s everything in one. He’s very smart. He’s my headache, as well. But he’s just a great kid. He loves all sports. One of the staff here got him a basketball and basketball court for his birthday, and now he makes me put the basketball court right by the TV, and when we watch basketball, when they shoot, he shoots. And when he makes it, he comes around everybody and asks for high-fives.

That’s very cute.

He’s very outgoing. He has reptiles. He has snakes; he has iguanas; he had tarantulas. He has everything. I mean, you know how growing up, some kids are afraid—I was always afraid of that stuff. But his dad… they go in and get the animals, they watch them. We have four boas, two of them are like six feet long. He’s not afraid at all. He’s like his dad.

And how is he like you?

He’s loud. He is loud! [laughs] He’s--what’s the word—he is very aggressive, with everything that he does, with his sports, when he is competing, when he is running. Right now, we’re trying to shift that mode with him—reading, and trying to say our numbers and our ABCs. I can’t get past D right now.

C’mon, D is your name, how can he not get past it?

No, D is not my name. I am Ma. Or, he just started say Mama. But he calls everybody’s name but mine, unless he’s getting into trouble.

OK, I admit that hearing about Marcus being aggressive just like you, the image that came to mind immediately is of when you were a player here, and that game against Stanford where you and Brooke Smith were just wrestling, banging in the paint, both of you falling to the ground. Ah good times!

Yeah, that’s how I remember myself. But now watching the game, the refs, they’re not as lenient. I was thinking, I would foul out!

[Laughs] OK, keeping it real, Dev, you did foul out. But maybe now, by halftime, you’d be gone.

Exactly! And now looking at Gray, it’s like, “Oh my god! I know what you’re going through!” Because she’s so tough.

But my son, besides being aggressive, he’s so smart. He picks things up, like putting on his own shoes. He’s just independent. And I’ve been independent my whole life, so it’s like, “Wow! Look at you! Go ahead!”

A week ago, he was shooting the basketball, and he came and grabbed me, “Mom, c’mon!” Then he’d shoot and then he looked at me, and he wanted me to rebound for him! And I’m like, are you serious? I get the ball and I give it back to him, and we did this for five minutes, until I had to sit down. But hopefully, if he’ll want to play, he’s gonna play. And with me, of course he’s going to know what I’ve been through with academics, so I just want him to succeed in school.

That’s great, and speaking as an educator, you’re doing all the right things with his development. We help kids get smart by engaging them when they’re very young, verbally and cognitively, in addition to their motor skills. Does he know about the baby coming?

Yes. He calls her “baby,” and he wants to kiss the baby. We’re trying to get him to say her name, but…

So it’s a girl! And you’ve already named her?

Yeah. Parker, we named her Parker. So little Marcus, he knows about the baby, but he doesn’t know to be delicate, and he would still try to run full-speed at me and run into my stomach, or he would climb on top of me, even when I try to tell pull him off and tell him he can’t do that. He’s a little Energizer bunny. But we get him to bed by 8:45, no later than nine o’clock.

So a little quiet time for Mommy after that, right?

Yes, and study time. Marcus’s family is very big, and they help us out a lot. Most days, he’s with Marcus’s aunt.

That’s amazing that you have that kind of support. It would be even harder to raise a kid, be in a relationship, go to school, work here, without family help.

I’ve never… My family, they’re so distant. I keep up with maybe one cousin on my mother’s side. She’s a counselor in Arizona. But his dad’s family, they’re so family oriented. They’re there for one another. I mean, I’ve never seen it… Every Thanksgiving, his family has a ranch, so we all go down there, and everybody is cooking, everybody is praying, the men are outside deep-frying the turkey, and we’re outside… They actually put me to work this year…

Pregnant as you are? You’d think this would be the year you’d get a free pass…

I know! I was like, excuse me! But Marcus’s mother, she’s unbelievable. She’s a great granny; she’s a great mom to him. She’s supportive of him in everything. I didn’t have that. I just love that they embraced me and took on Marcus Jr. They come and get him, and they buy him stuff—in fact, I think they buy him too much stuff!

Hearing you talk about this, I’m thrilled for you, to be so happy and content with where you are. So I’m almost reluctant to ask you to go back to when you first got to Cal. As Lindsay told me, “Ask her the tough questions! Ask her how she gave me an ulcer!” Tell me about that. I remember the Devanei who got suspended in her first or second game…

[Laughs] That Devanei is not here any more.

That’s clear. But then tell me about that Devanei, and that Lindsay, what they went through, and how that relationship developed.

Oh, wow. That Devanei was still aggressive, and I resisted change from people. I was always saying, “I will remain who I am. No one is going change me. I am going to play how I want to play.” Joanne and I, oh, we bumped heads a lot. But, now as an adult, I look back, and I realized, Joanne, you was right. I did, I got into a lot of fights. I wasn’t on time for anything; time management wasn’t my strong point.

With Lindsay, Lindsey just, she would bring me in her office and said, “What? What can I do? What do you need me to do?” And I’m like, “I just need y’all to leave me alone!” Because I mean, coming from where I came from, trust isn’t, trust is earned, and Lindsay earned my trust that first year. Something happened in my family, and I was bawling, and she was just, she was always there. And Kim Hairston, who coaches with Joanne now, she was there as well, so, them two just coming to me and giving me a hug. Because I think I was just too uptight. And with my history with my mother, I didn’t trust women at all. Coming out of high school, I thought I should go to a school that has a man coach because I’m able to communicate with them better, and with women, we just bumped heads all the time. But with Lindsay, it was so easy to talk to her about any and everything that was going on. So even when I didn’t hear Joanne, I heard Lindsay, and our relationship just flourished over the years.

That was my impression of what was going on with you, based on what I learned from my own students. My school, we had a lot of kids with trust issues, because for so many of them, school was not a place where they felt accepted or cared for, so you had to show them, to prove yourself and earn their trust through hugs, and kind words, and any way you can, while always holding high expectations for them. But even for an eight-year-old, it takes a long while for that guard to come down, so if you’re eighteen, nineteen…

My mind was already made up. When I was dealing with the kids in the group home, it was kind of like the same thing. You had to peel the trust layer by layer. And once you have that trust, you have to stay committed and be the same person, consistent in who you are. And Lindsay has been consistent to a T of who she is, to me, and to my son. My son gets here, and I mean, they all swarm him, but Lindsay, that’s like her son. So, really, the players are her kids.

With a daughter coming, and with your own history of challenging relationships with women, how will you make sure things are different with you and your daughter?

It’s different, because my family structure, how I want my family to look, is totally different from how I grew up. Meaning, two-parent household, both in education, both working.  Having that foundation in my home, with my kids: family dinners, talking now with my son, it’s totally different. I don’t want them to grow up in the same area; I always say, it’s always great to visit and hang out—he goes to my grandmother’s house—but it’s different. I don’t want him to go through poverty and endure any of that stuff. But I do want him to make his own way.

I get that. That’s certainly the way I grew up. As immigrants, my parents were very clear that they wanted us kids to make our own way, but they also wanted to make sure that we didn’t face the same hardships, that we would exceed what they were able to do. 

Exactly. Exactly. And by them having their father around, I think that’s great. A lot of my issues came from not having my dad around. Actually, me and my father just kind of rekindled a little bit of the relationship we do have.

I was going to ask about that…

Um… well, we… now we’re going to get personal.

That’s how I do…

Well, we took a DNA test last year, and it turns out that I am his daughter.

You weren’t sure?

He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure. It was just a lot of family drama that I just don’t… I choose not to deal with. Now that I’m a mom, if you choose to be in my life, you choose to be in it. That’s your choice. I’m an adult now, so I understand a lot more than a teenager or a little kid. I am not that seven-year-old girl anymore.

Was there forgiveness that you had to go through?

Well, I forgave him. But it’s on him to realize what he wants to do. If he wants to be part of his grandkid’s life, and my life, I’m very open to it. But he has to make that move. Only so much a person can do as an adult and keep getting the same result over and over. You get tired of it. I gave him the opportunity to be in my kid’s life, but it’s hard to explain to someone who’s 50 years old, “You weren’t the victim. I was.” And they still don’t get it.

He has his own work to do.

He has a lot of work to do. But it kind of carried over here. Joanne made me go to counseling for a while, because she felt I was always angry. So it helped in a way, but over the years, you have to learn for yourself.

Thank you for sharing that. Did this make it hard for you, trusting a man, in term of when you met Marcus?

No. It wasn’t hard. It was the other way around: people didn’t trust me! [Laughs]

So how did he come through that, then?

Well, actually Marcus and I dated in high school. We dated, and then we went our separate ways. We had our intermission, or whatever. A few years ago, I was at a bowling alley, and I saw him. And Marcus is stubborn, and he’s shy to most, but once you get to talk to him, he opens up. So I think when he saw me and I saw him, he didn’t want to talk, but I made him talk. And so from that day, we just kept talking, and we haven’t stopped. It’s been almost four years now.

There’s a theme now of people coming back into your life. Are you still in touch with any former teammates?

I talk to Tasha [Vital]. When Ashley [Walker] isn’t busy across the sea, I talk to her. I haven’t seen her since her father passed. I talked to Krista [Foster]; Krista is actually having another baby. She’s having a little boy. I talk to Keanna [Levy] every once in a while over facebook. Her son is so adorable. Mooch [Federico] and I were supposed to go to lunch, but our schedules are hectic. I haven’t talked to Lauren [Greif] in a while, but I know she is just across the San Mateo Bridge.  

I think I missed Alexis [Gray-Lawson] a couple of days ago—she was here. I haven’t talked to her in while, but I sent her a message, because everybody asks about her because it was always Alexis and Devanei and vice versa, and it was like, “I don’t know what to tell them! What are you doing?” So she’s doing good. I saw Alexis’s mom a couple of weeks ago; she’s seen my son and everything. Once you’re family, you’re always family. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t talked to them in a long time. We’re all… sad to say, we’re almost thirty!

Don’t worry, there’s a lot more fun and growth to come in your next decade! Trust me. So speaking of which, where do you see yourself down the road?

I want to coach. Whatever they need me to do here, I just want to learn as much as I can to get me prepared for the next level dealing with basketball. Basketball is my passion, and that’s the route that I want to go and stick with. I believe and her staff can guide me in that direction. I need to learn how to balance being a mom and being a coach. I see how time-consuming it is. I see how Jen [Hoover] who used to coach here and who’s now at Wake Forest, I see how she can juggle everything. With the family support that I do have, I believe that I can do it.

But right now, I have plenty right in front of me. My baby comes in March, then Marcus is done with the Academy, and then I graduate. So it’s going to be pretty busy.

Thank so much, Devanei, for sharing. I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Thank you! That was fun. I used to be so nervous talking to the media, when I was playing. I never wanted to do the stuff after the games. I remember my heart would beat real fast; palms would start to sweat. Just hoped that I could listen to what Joanne said and then just repeat it.

I remember that. You were never what we’d call a good quote. But look at you now!

I know! Another way I’ve grown.

Indeed. Take care, Dev, and happy holidays!













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