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Baranek: Sandburg’s Dakota Hampton has more to her game than a name

DakotHamptdaughter Dan Hamptis her senior year volleyball player Sandburg. She figures be one Southland's strongest hitters. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

Dakota Hampton, daughter of Dan Hampton, is in her senior year and a volleyball player at Sandburg. She figures to be one of the Southland's strongest hitters. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Name factor?

“She’s kind of intimidating. She’s so strong-shouldered and has such strong power. But for most of the varsity teams, I don’t know if they read that much into it that it’s Dan Hampton’s daughter. They just see her as another powerful outside.”

David Vales,
Sandburg girls volleyball coach,
on the Eagles’ Dakota Hampton

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Updated: September 11, 2012 6:12AM



Dakota Hampton looked kind of surprised at the suggestion that Sandburg’s opponents this volleyball season might have reason to be scared of her.

“Scared? I really hope not,” Hampton said during a break between sessions Wednesday on the first day of practice. “I don’t think my personality really matches on the court and off the court.

“I’m a nice girl,” she continued, breaking into a smile. “I’m just really competitive when I step on the court. All I think about is winning.”

I guess I should have been more specific.

As a junior in 2011, Hampton had a reputation for being a fierce competitor who could hit a ball hard enough to make it hurt.

I was just imagining what it’ll be like to be on the other side of the net now that she’s a senior.

Ready to be scared?

Already, the 6-foot outside hitter has added two inches to her vertical leap. And the “Daughter of Danimal” is embarking on a program that should make her more buff than ever.

“This season is going to be different,” said Hampton, whose father is Bears Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton. “Coach (David) Vales and I sat and talked about physical training and where we need to be, our whole team.

“We’re going to get bigger, faster, stronger. After and before practice we’re going to lift weights. We’re going to be sore in the beginning of the season, but it’s going to be worth it when we’re in that match against McAuley at the end of the year.”

Being Dakota Hampton can’t be easy.

Not only are scribes like me constantly writing the line, “Hampton, the daughter of ... ” people often point at her and whisper, “Look, there’s Dan Hampton’s daughter,” like she’s some sort of zoo exhibit.

“I don’t really notice,” she said. “I just play the game. I mean, people try to chat me up, ‘Ohhh, I knew your dad from this and this.’ And I’m like, ‘Okayyyy.’ It’s really not that difficult at all. It’s more like just talking to people.”

Playing with the last name, though, has come with a lot of expectations.

“Yeah, there’s pressure, but it’s a good pressure,” Hampton said. “It gives me a motivation to work harder than anyone else in the gym.”

The results are being noticed. A bevy of Division I colleges showed an interest before Hampton chose South Florida, which is undergoing a bit of a face-lift with a new coach and several incoming freshmen.

“I’m ecstatic. I couldn’t be happier with the school I’m going to,” Hampton said. “I wanted three things in college: to go south and be at a D-I school that had a football team. I love football.”

UCLA? Illinois? Hawaii? What’s in a name, anyway?

“My dad could have gone to Texas A&M or Texas, and he chose Arkansas,” Hampton said. “It’s all in where you want to go. I mean, who cares what other people say, right? They’re not going to be there. I’m going to be there.”

For now, she’s still at Sandburg, hoping to leave behind a bigger legacy not for who she is, but for what she’s done.

Hampton posted All-Area credentials in 2011 with 357 kills, 277 digs and 25 blocks. Some of those kills probably resulted in impressive bruises, but Hampton was more excited about the digs.

“Before, when I was a freshman, I could hit the ball, but what’s an outside hitter without passing or digging?” she said. “My passing and defense, it all starts there. It upped my game.”

She’s also going to be asked to be a team leader, a role she shared in 2011 with Kara Kentner.

“Dakota started to take that over last year,” Vales said. “Kara Kentner was one of those silent leaders who led by example. Dakota came across more as our vocal leader, if we were playing a big opponent.

“This actually isn’t a new role for her. But being a senior and this being her last year, will she be able to encourage the younger players and get them on board with her? Yeah, it’s a challenge. But we’ve already seen in summer camp and in summer league that she’s willing to take on that challenge.”

The next chapter awaits.



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