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Keys to Success

February 7, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Rachel Hammond and the Lady Flames are 20-2 overall and own a two-game lead in the Big South standings.

Rachel Hammond and the Lady Flames are 20-2 overall and own a two-game lead in the Big South standings.

Story first appeared in Flames Illustrated, Jan. 15-29 issue

Confidence is one of the keys this season for the Liberty Lady Flames basketball team. Likewise, Rachel Hammond is a key player on the Liberty roster this season. Hammond, a junior from Clearwater, Fla., saw playing time in 24 games last season, and her drive for this season started during the summer.

"I wanted to outplay the system," noted Hammond. "The system wants you to be tired and not come to practice. This summer, I found myself wanting to come and beat the system."

Since seventh grade, she has had Liberty and basketball on her mind. The guard learned about Liberty through her sister, Ruth, who played basketball at Gardner-Webb, coached by former Lady Flames head coach Rick Reeves. "I saw Jerry Falwell on a video and fell in love with the campus," she said. "I loved the idea of a Christian university which had a great basketball program. This was my dream - to be good enough to play basketball at Liberty when I went to college."

It was a great recruiting weekend for head coach Carey Green. On one weekend of recruiting, Coach Green and his staff brought in Hammond and the Frazee triplets. Hammond likes to think she recruited the triplets to come play at Liberty. While playing at a national tournament, they found out their fathers had played college basketball together at Hanover College. From that point on, Hammond set out to get them to play at Liberty.

The transition from high school to college was a big one for Hammond and her family. Hammond is one of six siblings and feels that, because of the large size of her family, the transition she made into college was unique. "My dad has been one of the most influential people in my life," she said. "He has taught me a lot mentally, which has prepared me to have confidence to take on life's big challenges."

Hammond has been able to treat her basketball team as her family on and off the court. This season, the guard has been honored by her teammates by being voted onto the team's leadership council.

"I am excited about this leadership position, said Hammond. "I room with a freshman, Heather Smith. Our coaches used to have people live with the same roommates throughout their career. Now they have allowed us to rearrange our roommates and help to mold these new players. Being in this position allows me help guide her on the court and in the classroom."

Hammond not only is a leader on the court. Off the court, she holds a 4.0 grade-point average in social science.

Fighting through nagging injuries the past two seasons with the Lady Flames has given Hammond a sense of confidence and determination this season. Staying injury-free is the goal for the team this season and, so far, Hammond has achieved this goal personally.

She has been able to be a spark off the bench, and is excited to come in for starter Courtney Watkins or wherever the team might need her. The junior observed, "Courtney is playing awesome this season. I want to become a bigger asset off the bench this season than I have been in the past. I want to keep the tempo of the game up when I get in."

Coming off the bench against Binghamton this season, Hammond hit all five of her shots from the field and totalled 13 points. "I have confidence this season to take on a bigger role.

"Coach always tells us when we are on the court to find our ‘room and rhythm,' which means finding room and then having the trigger ready to make a play."

Motivation is a big factor this season for the Lady Flames.

"I really want to win the Big South this season and do well in the NCAA Tournament," says Hammond.

The confidence level for the Lady Flames is currently very high. When asked about the motivation which keeps her going from day to day, she said, "It has really changed through my three seasons here at Liberty. I started out as a freshman thinking it was all about me; in high school we were all the best players on our respective teams.

"As a sophomore, I became humbled by the team. Now as a junior, I just want to win for my coach. This is what he does for a living. He deserves to win each game he is coaching."

There are many keys to the success of this year's team.

"We need to continue to be stronger than other teams," Hammond explained. "I believe we are physically stronger. Our strength and conditioning coach, Dave Williams, has been able to get our confidence level up to shut teams down during the second half."

Last season, Liberty was 6-10 in games decided by 10 points and less. This season, the Lady Flames have turned the tables, winning six of their first seven single-digit decisions. "The mental aspect of the game is the biggest part," Hammond noted. "We have to know we can shut down teams in the second half."

Hammond is focused on the task at hand. When asked about the future, she responded, "Wait, wait, wait. I am not looking toward next season or beyond. I am looking toward our goals for this season. I am looking forward to winning the Big South Championship and going to the NCAA Tournament."

Above all, Hammond wants to leave Liberty University with the respect of those she came in contact with. When pressed about her future outside of basketball, which is quickly approaching, she relents and provides insight to her thinking.

"I want to leave with people respecting me, no matter if I can put up 20 points a game or just come off the bench. I want to leave playing to the best of my ability."

The Floridian wants to eventually become a high school history teacher and, in this role, make an impact in the public school system.

Hammond understands confidence is a determining factor to the success of the Lady Flames this season. If every player possesses a high level of confidence, then the Big South Conference title should be within the reach of this Lady Flames team.
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Ryan Powell is a 2007 LU alum and a graduate assistant in sports marketing for Liberty University.