LOS ANGELES — The small huddle of reporters outside the Las Vegas Aces’ locker room at Staples Center was waiting.
Maybe it’d typically be Aces starter A’ja Wilson walking out to meet them. But with Wilson out with a sprained left ankle, Dearica Hamby emerged from the visitor’s locker room less than 30 minutes after Thursday’s 76-68 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. A tiny white towel hugged her neck as she leaned against the wall with her hands resting on her knees.
It was a second straight double-double performance for the Aces’ reserve, who’s started the past four games in Wilson’s place.
And in that span — one in which she’s averaging 16.8 points and 9.5 rebounds — she’s shown something that’s perhaps been present her whole career: Not only can she give the team quality minutes off the bench, but she’s prepared to be efficient in whatever role she’s needed for.
She did it against the Minnesota Lynx a couple of weeks ago, where she totaled 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a season-high 38 minutes.
She did it again the following game, nearly passing her career high in points (27) with a 24-point, nine-rebound performance in a victory over Seattle.
And she followed that with an 11-point, 11-rebound night in Thursday’s loss.
With a floor presence that’s almost ubiquitous, Hamby can zip up the court past everyone else for an easy layup, or swat at the ball and force a turnover on the other end as a key piece of the league's top-ranked defense.
And her presence off the court is all business: focus, keyed in on what the team needs to do better if it intends to compete for a title, much like everyone expects.
“We need to take care of the ball,” Hamby said simply.
The fifth-year player out of Wake Forest has given her team a spark when it was needed in Wilson’s absence and with Liz Cambage in foul trouble for most of Thursday’s game.
“It happens,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Every now and then people get in foul trouble, and we have other players who can come in and pick it up.”
But ask Hamby what has contributed to her surge in production lately, and she’ll say nothing much about her game has changed.
“I think I’m doing the same I always do,” Hamby said. “Just more minutes and a little bit more opportunity.”
More from Yahoo Sports: