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WNBA

After a state of limbo, faith and a clear mind is fuelling Ruth Hamblin's potential WNBA return

#Ruth H

Ruth Hamblin's basketball life is now on the right track after signing a training camp deal with the Las Vegas Aces, but for a while, things were in what she called limbo.

Like most basketball players, Hamblin had some sort of structure playing the game she loves. She spent four years at Oregon State, then was picked in the second round of the WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings. In the WNBA offseason, she played in the Australian pro league for the Perth Lynx and then again the following year with the Adelaide Lightning. There was always basketball to look forward to until this past winter when there wasn't.

For the first time in a long time Hamblin wasn't playing the game she loved at the highest level - a challenging time she recalls.

"Being in limbo was certainly challenging," Hamblin told NBA.com. "We're so used to having everything structured and just everything kind of flowing naturally being able to be prepared for things months in advance to kind of know what's coming.

"To have the immediate future all up in the air was certainly an uncomfortable experience, but I think it was really a good time for me just to grow in my faith and also just personally.

"It was a good chance to just step back and just reassess what I wanted from this basketball journey that I'm on and kind of where I'm headed."

Sometimes stepping away from something you love can open your eyes to how much you truly love it. Spending the winter out of action wasn't planned or intentional. It just sort of happened.

She also never set her sights on being one of the best players in her country, playing at the world's highest of levels. That, too, just sort of happened.

"I think the biggest thing that I got out of (being away from basketball) was just kind of the refresh of how much I do want this and how much I want to compete at the highest level," Hamblin continued.

"So to have a WNBA opportunity come up was really exciting - and then just kind of digging into the discomfort of that and how hard that's going to be and what a challenge that is."

The countdown to training camp is on. Having something on the calendar is something that's giving her a huge mental advance now in her training sessions.

"You get a countdown to see how many or few days you have left to get ready for (camp)," Hamblin said.

"So I think that was a just a huge edge to be like 'ok I got this tangible thing I'm working toward now', and that's just huge mentally."

Growing up on a farm in Canada, Hamblin admits that she wasn't locked in on the day-to-day happenings in the NBA or WNBA. She jokes that she at least was aware of who Michael Jordan was.

But once she was ingrained into the basketball world, she cites Canadian Kim Smith (now Gaucher) as one of the people she looked up to. Hamblin recalls being invited to the Senior National Team camp for the first time in 2013 and having a dreamlike moment lacing her shoes up next to Smith. This past fall at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife, Spain Hamblin got the opportunity to play alongside Smith.

She also got her first chance at competing in a global competition against the best of the best and did it proudly wearing Canada across her chest.

"There are moments when you're out there and you're like 'hey I'm doing this' it's kind of surreal," Hamblin said of her World Cup experience.

"It's like an out of body experience where you're almost just like watching yourself just compete and it's pretty crazy actually. When you think of it especially for me just how far I've come in the last six years of my playing and to be there at the top with the best it's pretty unreal.

"That was my first world level tournament…just to be at that level surrounded by such incredible players and also just incredible people - you get to see a different side of everyone when it comes to World Cups because the pressure is just so high and everyone has been preparing for years for these moments.

"I think that was just really cool to see that and understand what it's all about. Obviously just to wear Canada across your chest - I mean that's why we play, that's what we grind for."

Fuelled by her experiences both on and off the court, Hamblin enters this new challenge of once again making the WNBA with an open mind. She admits that she hasn't always had the current mindset that she's in, and that maturity has played a part. But her faith has kept everything into perceptive.

"A lot of times I've struggled with or I would shape my identity around what I do and a lot of times that would be basketball.

"So when basketball isn't going well it's like everything is kind of falling apart crumbling, but just to kind of have that rock-solid foundation that my faith or my identity is in God and who he created me to be.

"I think that just kind of gives me that unwavering confidence to play and be free express myself and have fun.

"Not be burdened by who I am and whatever implications that might have."

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