June 20, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
When Danielle Hamilton-Carter travels Monday back to Sweden, the Georgia Tech sophomore will be going home in more than one way.
She’s going to play basketball again, and that’s something the NCAA has prevented her from doing since last summer. To say she’s looking forward to playing for Sweden in the European Championships would be understatement.
“I’m just so excited to play,” said the 6-foot-4 forward from Stockholm. “It’s like they took a year from me and I have to take it back.”
Actually, “they” took more than a year from Hamilton-Carter.
The NCAA ruled that the club team she played with for a season after she completed high school and before she enrolled at Tech last year was the equivalent of a professional team, and even though she did not draw a salary, Hamilton-Carter is forced to sit out 43 Tech games.
That covers what would have been her freshman season, and will eat up the first 10 games of the 2010-11 season. She’ll have the remainder of her sophomore season and two more seasons of eligibility remaining.
“I knew there was a possibility that there would be a penalty, but I didn’t think it would be this long,” she said. “I thought it would be a couple games.”
Hamilton-Carter and the Swedish team will play in several tournaments this summer, and for her it will be the first competition since she averaged 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in last summer’s European championships.
Chances are Hamilton-Carter will look a bit different to her Swedish teammates and European opponents. She’s had plenty of time to refine her game.
“I feel the game is so different than in Europe, where it’s more finesse,” Hamilton-Carter said. “There is more contact here, and the athleticism is on another level. I feel like I’m stronger, faster. I’ve improved my shot a lot. I used to be strictly a back-to-the-basket post player, but I came here and had to change my game. I used to always be the biggest girl, and I’m far from being the biggest girl here.”
The most recent part of the Swedish pipeline to Tech’s women’s basketball program nearly wasn’t a Yellow Jacket. Hamilton-Carter nearly opted against coming to The Flats after Nina Bärlin, Jasmina Pacariz and Chioma Nnamaka had come from Sweden to play for the Jackets first.
“I had always heard about Georgia Tech, and were always trying to get me to look at Tech,” she said. “I was actually not wanting to go to Tech because so many Swedish players had gone there, but then I met coach Jo [MaChelle Joseph] and I came here and I loved it.”
In a way, having to sit out her freshman season was for the better. Hamilton-Carter’s had that much more time to fine-tune and adapt her skill set, and more importantly got a jump on school work while the history, technology and society major avoided the travel schedule. She did practice with the squad, though, even beyond January when she and Tech officials learned that the NCAA rejected her appeal.
“Academically, it’s given me a head start. I was out of school for a year so coming back into college and having to study every day, especially at Tech, that was hard,” she said. “I’ve been able to watch the game a lot. I feel like I’ve become a smarter player.”
Hamilton-Carter will finally get to put her skills to use again this summer, chiefly in the European Championships July 15-25 in Latvia. “I’m very excited,” she said, “and almost equally nervous.”