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IU Northwest announces Jason Hawkins as the RedHawks’ new men’s head basketball coach
Appointed as the coach for the 2011-12 season
Hawkins, who also served as head coach for Calumet College from 2004-06, replaces departed coach Shawn Chism, who led the RedHawks to an 11-19 record in his lone season with the team.
“We are excited to have Coach Hawkins join our RedHawk family,” said IU Northwest Director of Student Life and Athletics Charles Gary, Ph.D. “Jason is a product of Gary and Northwest Indiana, and he has strong ties to the region and to the sports community here. He played high school and college basketball here, he’s coached locally at the high school, the NAIA and the NCAA levels, and we believe he is the right person to lead our men’s program to the next level of achievement.”
Hawkins is a Gary native and a 1999 Bishop Noll graduate who was team captain for the basketball team his senior year. His parents still live in Miller; his father is a Lake Superior Court judge; his brother is a teacher in Gary; and his sister operates a dance studio on Lake Street.
It’s easy to understand why Hawkins proudly refers to himself as a “Region rat.” Northwest Indiana and the region’s sports are in his blood.
“It’s like coming back home,” Hawkins said on Tuesday. “I’m glad to be here, and I think I can do some really positive things for the university here by coaching and bringing in a good caliber of students and athletes.
“The great thing about IU Northwest is that it’s a great institution that offers a great education, and it also offers an opportunity to play college athletics close to home,” he added. “There is a lot of opportunity here for student-athletes to set themselves up for success.”
The coach said he sees the RedHawks as a team that represents not just IU Northwest but also Northwest Indiana and its basketball community.
“IU Northwest is Indiana basketball,” Hawkins said. “If you look at the roster, most of the guys are from Indiana. That’s what we want this to be, student-athletes from the Region who see this as a place where they can be successful.”
Hawkins played for the VU Crusaders from 2000-03 and was a member of the 2002 team that won the Mid-Continent Conference tournament title and appeared in the NCAA Tournament. Following graduation, Hawkins remained with VU in 2003-04 as a graduate assistant and director of basketball operations before leaving to accept the head coach’s job at Calumet College.
Hawkins returned to VU in 2006 as an assistant under Coach Homer Drew but later stepped down to focus on completing his MBA at the university. After completing his master’s degree, Hawkins spent three years as a teacher and head coach at Marquette Catholic High School in Michigan City. His most recent position was as an assistant coach at Elmhurst College in Illinois for the 2010-11 season.
“I am thrilled to see Jason return to Northwest Indiana, where his family is and where his roots are,” Drew said on Tuesday. “He knows the area well, and it’s really good to see him back there. He’s going to do a good job for IU Northwest. We’re excited for him.”
Drew described Hawkins the player as someone who worked hard every day and who loved to learn about the game. He gave Hawkins the coach high marks, as well, especially for his recruitment efforts and his commitment to nurturing young players.
“I know that Jason has always been committed to helping young people succeed, and I believe that’s what he’ll do at IU Northwest,” Drew said.
Hawkins credited Drew and his other coaches with demonstrating what it means to teach through coaching, and he said the role of teacher and mentor is one that he embraces both on and off the court.
“My philosophy is, ‘Players don’t care what you know until they know that you care.’ You’ve got to care about your student-athletes,” he said. “It’s not just about basketball.”
Academic achievement and community engagement are important to the success of the players and of the team, Hawkins said, and he pledged to create a team environment that supports the total student experience at IU Northwest.
First, though, the new coach must meet with his RedHawk team and evaluate the squad’s strengths and needs for the 2011-12 season.
“The first thing is to meet with the team, see where we’re at, see where we need to improve, and then do just that,” Hawkins said. “This is recruiting season, so the biggest thing to do is get out there and see who in the Region is available that we can set up for success, and who can help us be successful at the same time.
“Being from the Region, and loving the Region, and having those ties here should help us in our effort to build a successful program here,” he said.