QU makes a winner out of Hawkins in triumphant return to Pepsi Arena
QUINCY (WGEM) - Last March when he was hired for his second stint as Quincy University men’s basketball coach, Steve Hawkins knew the day would come when he would return to the sideline at Pepsi Arena.
But Hawkins admits he really never gave much thought to that day because he and his staff were so focused on rebranding the QU program throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Recruiting, practice, camps, budgets, fundraising and developing a new culture were foremost on Hawkins’ mind, not a return to the Memorial Gym court where his teams compiled a 137-113 record with three NCAA Div. II Tournament appearances during a 10-year run from 1990-2000.
But the reality came Wednesday night as the Hawks easily defeated Hannibal-LaGrange University 88-51 in the first home game of the Steve Hawkins 2.0 Era.
“It never really hit me until two days ago,” Hawkins said after QU improved to 1-2. “We were at practice and I looked at Coach (Tim) Walsh and said, ‘Wishy, it’s been a long time.’ It’s almost like a light bulb came on.”
Hawkins said he didn’t get too emotional about coaching his first game back in Quincy until the players were standing along the free-throw line for the QU band’s playing of the National Anthem and then the old feelings and special memories came flooding back.
“That was tough, I’m not gonna lie,” Hawkins said, who had several family members sitting under the north basket near the QU bench. “Then it was really getting inside my head. It brought back a lot of great memories.”
On the court, the Hawks quickly took matters into their own hands, bolting to a 12-0 lead and were never headed against the undermanned but scrappy Trojans.
Ninety minutes later, Hawkins and his team walked off the court with his first victory in Pepsi Arena since beating Lewis 77-64 on Feb. 19, 2000, a span of 22 years, 8 months, and 28 days, or 8,306 days.
In between, Hawkins spent a successful 20-year stint at Western Michigan University, the first three as an assistant coach and the last 17 as head coach. Wednesday’s victory brought his career mark to 292-264.
Senior forward Malik Hardmon led QU with 18 points and seven rebounds while junior guard Zion Richardson, who missed the Hawks first two games with a knee injury, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. HLG was led by guard Janssen Flotow, who scored 18 points, including three 3-pointers.
After the game, Hawkins addressed the team in the locker room and it was business as usual for the Hawks, who have a short turn around time as they leave Thursday morning for games against Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kan., on Friday and Saturday.
Then freshman Orlando Thomas led the charge as the Hawks congratulated their coach on the first victory of his second tenure at the helm.
“It felt right at home,” Hawkins said while savoring the victory. “Pepsi Arena has such a feel to it. The rafters, the arch ceiling. It still has that special feeling.”
Just like old times.
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