JoAnn Hamlin’s loyalty is totally with her Iowa Hawkeyes … but it’s certainly not surprising that she, without even realizing it, hums the Kansas fight song when she hears it. That’s what happened Tuesday, when Iowa faced KU at Allen Fieldhouse.
“One of my teammates at one point said, ‘You’re not singing along to that, are you?’ ” Hamlin said. “And I was like, ‘No!’ ”
When busted, first deny. Then try to explain.
“It’s just that … I know it,” she said. “I know all their songs. They’re in my head, so it’s just instinctual.”
Hamlin, a 6-foot-3 junior post player, used to come to Lawrence with her father to see KU men’s games. A Kansas native and graduate of Winfield High, she found following the Jayhawks to be second-nature, as it is for so many people who grow up in the Sunflower State.
However, with it came time for college, she went to Kansas State, where she was part of the “next-generation” recruiting class that arrived in Manhattan in the fall of 2005, after Kendra Wecker, Laurie Koehn and Megan Mahoney had graduated.
Hamlin seemed very happy with her teammates … but the summer after her freshman season, she decided it was best to leave the program.
Her departure stunned most K-State followers. Why would an in-state kid who got lots of playing time and was popular with teammates and fans want to transfer? Why would someone so close to a loving family opt to make it a more difficult/further trip for them to come watch her play?
After initially saying more about her decision than she probably wanted to in one media report, Hamlin settled on the tried and true – and safely nebulous – “K-State just wasn’t a good fit.”
I was covering the program on a regular basis then and witnessed the turbulence that was going on then, which had nothing to do with any fault of Hamlin’s. Rather than go into it all in depth again, I’ll say this: From everything I saw first-half and heard from sources I trusted, Hamlin definitely made the right decision to transfer. She acted maturely and thoughtfully, and there is nothing about her character, personality, work ethic or playing ability that should be questioned.
Things have worked out for both for Hamlin, whose team won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title last year, and for K-State, which won the Big 12 regular-season title. I respect Hamlin, and also her parents a great deal for listening to her and supporting her. Even though that meant a lot longer drives for them, going to Iowa City.
“I really enjoy the town and the atmosphere,” Hamlin said. “I really like the coaches here and my teammates. It was good for me to get that far away; to try to put things behind me and move on.”
After sitting out 2006-2007, Hamlin got her basketball bearings back last year, playing with a very experienced team. This year, she’s going to be called upon to be an even bigger contributor for the Hawkeyes, who play a very difficult non-conference schedule.
“I think it’s taken me some time to relax, Hamlin said. “Last year, I didn’t play as well as I wanted. This year, I think I have moved on and that I can play the way I used to.”