What if Beas Hamga never left Valparaiso?
It’s hard to misplace a 7-foot center, but Beas Hamga can’t be found anywhere among the Valparaiso record books. That’s because the UNLV transfer was never an official member of the team.
Hamga arrived on campus as a five-star recruit in January 2009 and was set to gain eligibility by the midway point of the 2009-10 season. The Cameroon native played five games with the Runnin’ Rebels in the fall of 2008 before deciding to transfer. Hamga picked Valparaiso over Rutgers, Mississippi and South Carolina.
Hamga’s arrival at Valparaiso led to one of the most absurd press conferences in school history. With the Crusaders going through a forgettable season, then-coach Homer Drew held a press conference with the injured Brandon McPherson and transfers Hamga and Cory Johnson. The hope was that the media would focus on the bright future of the program as opposed to the season that was spiraling out of control.
Drew, the players and the media all felt awkward during the press conference and nothing of note happened except for this gem delivered by Hamga...
“(The expectations) were too much at UNLV. There was too much pressure sometimes,” Hamga said. “I don’t know what to expect (at Valpo), but we have to keep these expectations low.”
Perhaps Hamga knew something that no one else in the room did that afternoon. Perhaps he knew that the biggest lasting memory he’d leave in five months in Valparaiso was that he never would go anywhere without having his headphones on. Perhaps he knew that once he saw snow for the first time he was already mentally checked out.
Hamga’s career took him to Weatherford College (Texas) where he averaged 8.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while missing half the season with an injury. Hamga finished the season ranked the 35th best JUCO player in the country and in the top five among JUCO centers.
One year after choosing to leave Valparaiso, Hamga enrolled at UAB for two mediocre seasons. Once labeled as one of the top high school players in the country, Hamga played 15 minutes over the course of a month and didn’t register a single stat. As a junior at UAB, Hamga scored all seven of his points over the first three games of the season and then went scoreless for the final 12 games of the year. Hamga scored just four points as a senior and only played in double digit minutes on one occasion. Hamga finished with just 16 points in his Division I career.
It’s hard to imagine if Hamga would’ve ever panned out had he stayed at Valparaiso. Obviously he was looking for a low pressure situation and he would’ve found that with the Crusaders. Johnson pushing Hamga every day in practice would’ve improved the big man, but predicting success is difficult when looking at what Hamga ultimately produced at UAB.
Had Hamga stayed at Valparaiso, the Crusaders likely wouldn’t have added Milos Milosevic or Hrvoje Vucic. Neither one of those players was particularly effective on the floor, but both were held in high regard by their teammates off the court.
I sat down with Homer Drew earlier this month to talk about numerous topics and when I brought up Hamga, Drew instead listed off other players that Valparaiso couldn’t get to come to school instead. (This will be covered later in the following weeks)
There was a rumor that after Hamga finished his time at Weatherford he actually wanted to come back to Valparaiso instead of enrolling at UAB, but it’s unclear where that derailed. I’d have to imagine that Valparaiso lives by the “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” philosophy and didn’t want to take the chance on Hamga again.
Hamga and Moussa Gueye are not the same player, but it will be interesting to see how Gueye plays this season. Both are labeled as defensive-minded players and if the coaching staff can get Gueye to contribute on offense, I’d have to think they could’ve done the same with Hamga over his three years at Valparaiso.
For those that were around the Valparaiso basketball program during the first five months of 2009, we’ll never forget Hamga. For everyone else, he’s not even a name in the history books.