by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
Tianna Hawkins was ranked 133rd coming out of high school and barely a blip on the radar of high-major programs. Regardless of the ranking, the University of Maryland saw potential in Hawkins, and shot her an offer. While many young athletes would have been upset at being overlooked, Hawkins has not been fazed at all by the situation.
Hawkins’ poise and hard work have done all the talking, as she led the ACC in scoring and was in second rebounding this season. SLAMonline sat down with Hawkins recently to discuss her basketball influences, her experience as a senior, why the Terps are built for a deep Tourney run and more.
SLAM: Tell us a little bit about yourself—what do you like to do in your spare time?
Tianna Hawkins: I like to watch a lot of movies. I am really big on music, I spend a lot of time downloading music.
SLAM: I read you are a Carmelo Anthony fan. Who’s your favorite player in the WNBA?
TH: I really don’t have one in particular, but if I had to choose, I would say Candace Parker. I love her game, she is so versatile and does everything. I follow her on twitter as well, and she seems like a very humble and nice person off the floor.
SLAM: How was it growing up in the DC area?
TH: It was pretty cool. There is so much to do in this area, my grandparents used to take me sight-seeing all the time. It was really exciting to come up in an area where basketball is really big.
SLAM: When did you break into basketball, and who influenced you?
TH: My grandfather, he really stayed on top of my mother like, “These girls are too tall to be cheerleaders, you should let them play basketball.” We used to play against him a lot when we were younger. I stuck with it and it paid off.
SLAM: You were ranked 133rd by one service coming into Maryland. Considering your impact, that is pretty low. You had offers from Del State, Virginia Tech, George Washington and more mid-major programs. Do you feel you were overlooked?
TH: I don’t know, I would say at the time I was kind of content and happy that people were looking at me.
SLAM: Why was Maryland the school for you?
TH: Maryland has a great program, when I went there to visit I meshed with everyone. This is a very family-oriented team. This team is like my second family. My mother is actually a graduate of Maryland, so she had a huge influence with me making my choice to go here.
SLAM: Coach Frese said, “Tianna has made the biggest jump of any player I’ve ever coached.” What would you attribute to your success thus far?
TH: My freshman or sophomore year, I didn’t have the year I wanted to, but that didn’t slow me down. I would hit the gym hard every day to put up extra shots and extra conditioning. I mean there were times I came discouraged, because I wasn’t seeing instant results, but I saw the growth last year. I would say that the hard work I put in early got me to where I am now.
SLAM: Early, you guys lost Brene Moseley. Then you lost Laurin Mincy as well for the season. How have things changed since then?
TH: Nothing has really changed much, we rotate a little more offensively to different spots on the floor depending on the game. I think more of a focus is made to come together each game, and it shows with how well we play together.
SLAM: You are second in rebounding this year in the ACC at 9.5 per game. How important is that dynamic of the game to you?
TH: Rebounding is really important to me because we can create extra chances to score if needed by dominating the glass. I personally like to be physical near the rim and control the paint.
SLAM: Yeah I know, I noticed your junior year, you nearly averaged as many offensive rebounds as defensive…
TH: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s weird, and I don’t take it lightly cause being a good rebounder on the offensive end is not easy.
SLAM: Even more impressive is your offensive efficiency. You’re first in the ACC in scoring with 18.5 points per game, on 58 percent shooting. You led the nation last year also in field-goal percentage. What do you feel makes you a strong offensive player?
TH: I think it starts with my teammates. They know my game, they know I can face up, they know when and where to get me the ball. They do a great job of finding me.
SLAM: In my opinion, you encompass everything a senior athlete is supposed to be for their team: Focused, composed, hard-working, and you deliver in tough moments. What makes a good senior leader in your eyes?
TH: I think knowing that it is your last go-round really puts things in perspective for a senior. I want to go out with the biggest bang, and I play each game like it is do or die and like it’s my last. I think making the best out of situations makes is something you learn along the way also.
SLAM: Going into the NCAA Tournament, what are some things you’re pleased with, and what you would like to take to another level?
TH: I feel pretty confident about this team. The way we fought against Duke, we have to bring that intensity each game. I think if we bring energy like that we can go very far.
SLAM: Do you believe your team is built for a deep Tournament run?
TH: Without a doubt, we have shown we can hang with the best teams in the nation, and beat some as well proving we are one of the best teams in the nation. I think we have learned a lot from matchups against teams like UConn, Duke and others and are ready for the run.