All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year: Grand Rapids' Taryn Hamling grows into more than just a scorer
The Thunderhawks junior led her team to the Class AAA state tournament for the second year in a row and is looking forward to “doing some damage” in a third trip to Minneapolis.
GRAND RAPIDS — If there’s one thing that’s sure about Grand Rapids’ junior Taryn Hamling, she can shoot.
The junior was second in the state to Mountain Iron-Buhl’s Jordan Zubich with 116 3-pointers made this season and she shot better than 43% from long range.
In a January matchup with Duluth East, Hamling scored 25 points and hit five long balls in 69-53 win, despite the Greyhounds doing anything they could to deny her the ball.
“We ran three different players at her and then tried to double-team her as much as we can,” Duluth East coach Rich Windt said after the game. “But she can shoot, I mean she can shoot it from half-court and everybody knows it.”
Two months later in the state quarterfinal game, the St. Paul Como Park defense held Hamling to 5-of-15 from 3-point range and 20 points in the 76-57 loss, but it was a team effort, according to Cougars coach Londa England.
“We needed to be pesky with her and make sure we’re switching if we need to and getting over that screen,” England said at the time. “But her distance — she can shoot from anywhere.”
When she gets going, Hamling can shoot almost any team in the state out of the gym, but she’s grown into much more.
“She loves to shoot anywhere and it’s a challenge to see how many she can make from long range,” Thunderhawks coach — and Hamling’s mother — Kris Hamling said. “She’s also developed her other skills, like defense, she’s really dug down deep to work a little harder on defense, and then attacking the basket. We stress that she can’t just be a 3-point shooter. You’ve got to attack and be able to get to the rim.”
After ranking second in the state to Mountain-Iron Buhl’s Jordan Zubich with 116 3-pointers made this season and leading Grand Rapids to the state tournament for the second consecutive year, Hamling is the News Tribune’s 2022 All-Area Player of the Year.
Hamling said when she first played on the varsity team as an eighth-grader, she shot almost exclusively from the perimeter.
“Coaches started to know that and I knew that I had to round out my game a little bit because those aren’t always going to be open,” Hamling said. “I had to figure out how to do other things and ever since I’ve been training and working my game — figuring out moves to the basket, working on my first step and just trying to get into the paint and go up.”
Since she was still in elementary school, Hamling has traveled to the Twin Cities to practice or play with her club team.
“It really has helped me because I’m playing with girls from Hopkins and from those top schools,” she said. “It’s pushed me because I know that I need to be the best I can possibly be to earn a spot.”
While her club team has pushed Hamling to improve, she’s had another close influence that has pushed her to improve — older sister Heaven Hamling.
Heaven, the 2018 News Tribune Player of the Year, currently plays for North Dakota State, where she averaged a team-high 14.3 points a game and earned an All-Summit League honorable mention nod in 2022.
Heaven, the all-time leading scorer at Grand Rapids with 2,783 points, said she and her sister are similar in the way their games have evolved.
“Taryn, growing up like me, just started shooting threes right away and that’s what you get used to,” Heaven said. “All you really want to do is shoot threes — everybody loves watching that. But there’s a point where everyone is like ‘Ok, we can face guard this person and they can eliminate your game and take away the three.’ Then you have to figure out ways to help your team. That includes passing, getting stops, getting them open and allowing them to help the team.”
It hasn’t always been easy for the ultra-competitive sisters when they play each other, though.
“Heaven never really let Taryn win at all,” Kris said. “They’re both girls that want to win at all costs, so sometimes it ended with some tears — especially when they were little … It was fun to watch the competition between them — that competitive edge and pushing each other has helped both girls immensely.”
Hamling, who plans to join Heaven with the Bison after she graduates in 2023, played her sister when Heaven was home over the Easter holiday. Taryn Hamling won a pair of one-on-one games against her sister at the Grand Rapids gym. They played again the next day, with Heaven coming out on top both times, but any win over an NCAA Division I player “feels great,” Hamling said.
“It makes me feel better about how I will be able to play when I get (to Fargo),” she said. “It also helps me know what I need to work on. It makes me want to work on my defense more, get a little quicker and work on everything all-around.”
'It’s gotta be the shoes'
A drive to win isn’t the only thing Hamling picked up from her sister — she also picked up a love of collecting basketball shoes.
Hamling has somewhere around 20 pairs, she said, and her favorite is a pair a Air Jordan IV Shimmers — a cream-colored version of the shoes Michael Jordan wore in the 1989-90 season.
“Heaven started getting shoes as a young kid and I was always like ‘Wow, I really want to have more than just one pair of shoes,” Hamling said. “I remember when I was in middle school, I got my first pair of Nike shoes and I was like, ‘I really want another pair,’ and it just kept adding up … I honestly like having the variety. I like being able to wake up and be like, ‘Which pair of shoes,’ and I like to match it with my outfits and stuff like that.”
Heaven, who has around 40 pairs of her own, said it started for her watching NBA players thinking their shoes were cool, especially those LeBron James wore.
“When I was younger, I saved up all summer to get a $275 pair of his shoes,” Heaven said.
“I remember my mom and dad were so mad, but I saved up for them and got them.”
Hamling is looking forward to joining her sister playing for the Bison in 2023 — something that hasn’t happened since Hamling suited up for Grand Rapids as a seventh-grader in the 2018 section and state tournaments — but first she has a few more things to take care of.
Hamling is looking forward to scoring her 2,000th career point, but her priority is returning to the state tournament. But more than that, she wants to avoid the quarterfinal exit she’s experienced the last two years.
The team battled back from big deficits against Como Park several times in the 2022 quarterfinal, but the team ultimately ran out of steam and fell.
“Next year I’m really looking forward to going to state again and doing some damage this time,” Hamling said. “I don’t want to go down there just to be done. I want to go down there to win and compete and just be at that next level.”