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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!