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UConn’s Jordan Hawkins joins cousin Angel Reese of LSU as an NCAA champion — Andscape

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HOUSTON — Jordan Hawkins was in the midst of an on-court interview following UConn’s championship victory when he abruptly — and politely — excused himself. He hustled over to the ladder under the basket on the north end of the arena, climbed to the top where a pair of scissors were sitting and proceeded to do what champions do.

“I’m not really an emotional guy,” Hawkins said moments later, a piece of net lodged in the top of his Final Four championship hat and extending down the right side of his face. “But right now, this is just an amazing feeling.”

The UConn guard scored 16 points for the Huskies in Monday’s 76-59 championship game win over San Diego State and earned all-tournament team honors. That came one day after his cousin, LSU forward Angel Reese, led the team to the women’s NCAA tournament title, winning most outstanding player honors along the way.

“The cookout back home when me and Angel get home is gonna be lit,” said Hawkins.

Appropriate because Hawkins, like his cousin, spent the entire tournament on fire, averaging 16.3 points over six games. The tournament run was a comeback following UConn’s loss in the Big East semifinals when Hawkins scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Hawkins’ tournament performance was consistent with his play during an impressive sophomore season when, as a full-time starter for the first time with the Huskies, he averaged 16.2 points on his way to being named All-Big East First Team.

“I think my mentality changed completely,” said Hawkins, comparing his play to his freshman season when he averaged 5.8 points while trying to find his place in the team. “Getting older, growing as a player, getting more experience in the Big East.”

It also helps to have Richard Hamilton and Ray Allen, two former UConn legends and NBA stars, as mentors. Hawkins gets pointers from two of the premier shooting guards of the last 25 years.

“When I got to UConn I knew those were the type of guys that played here and I had to live up to that standard,” Hawkins said. “It’s amazing I’ve got these two guys in my corner. I can go to them anytime and ask them a question about how I can get my jump shot off quicker.”

What he learned was on full display on Monday night. After San Diego State cut what had been a 16-point UConn lead to five, Hawkins curled to the top of the key and hit a contested, quick release 3-pointer.

“Coach [Dan Hurley] drew up something for me,” Hawkins said. “I had to make it. Easy part. All credit to my teammates for getting me open on those screens and Coach for trusting me.”

That trust turned into the decisive stretch: a 9-0 run that helped the Huskies regain control of the game. UConn’s title concluded an improbable NCAA tournament where, for the first time, none of the top seeds reached the Final Four. UConn secured a spot as one of the premier programs in college basketball with its fifth title in 24 years, reaching the pinnacle under three different coaches — Jim Calhoun in 1999, 2004 and 2011; Kevin Ollie in 2014; and now Hurley.

UConn guard Jordan Hawkins (left) celebrates with assistant coach Mathew Johnson (right) after their team defeated San Diego State 76-59 in the NCAA men’s tournament national championship game at NRG Stadium on April 3 in Houston.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In the midst of the team’s celebration, the One Shining Moment video began playing on the JumboTrons throughout the stadium. Hawkins, like everyone else in the stadium, stopped and looked up at the memorable highlights.

Some of the final images on the video: Hawkins being bear-hugged by Hurley as he came out the game in the final seconds, and Hawkins throwing both arms high in the air as he gestured to the crowd knowing the title was bound for Storrs, Connecticut.

After the video ended, Hawkins and his teammates continued their celebration. And in the following hours, Reese jumped on social media to both congratulate her cousin and mention the upcoming family cookout in Maryland (Hawkins is from Montgomery County and Reese grew up just outside of Baltimore).

“We [grew up] dreaming about the same thing,” Hawkins said. “It’s absolutely amazing that we both get this opportunity.

“The family reunion is going to be crazy.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.



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