For Wise Coach Rob Garner, the first day of school Monday didn’t go quite as he’d planned.
It went a whole lot better.
His former player from his days at Friendly, 6-foot, 170-pound Byron Hawkins walked into the Upper Marlboro school where Garner is a physical education coach, and told him he was transferring in and joining the Puma basketball team.
“Monday he walks into my building and basically says, ‘Hey coach, I’m coming to Wise,’ ” Garner said. “And so I was like ‘Okay, this is a great way to start the school year off!’
“I’m just as in awe of the whole deal as everyone else.”
Hawkins spent the past two seasons at Good Counsel, where he led the team in scoring with 18.1 points per game last season. One of the area’s top recruits in the class of 2014, Hawkins announced he would leave the school to reclassify in the class of 2015 and join his DC Assault teammate Hassan Hussein at Vermont Academy.
But when Hussein’s plans changed and Vermont Academy Coach Jesse Bopp left for VCU, Hawkins reconsidered.
“[Coach Bopp] leaving, that didn’t really have an effect on me. But my teammate, that definitely did,” Hawkins said. “…when he wasn’t able to go anymore, it kind of shook up my decision a little bit.”
Hawkins, who has scholarship offers from Delaware, George Mason, George Washington, UNC-Greensboro, St. Joseph’s, and William & Mary, among others, said he also considered Pallotti and Riverdale Baptist as potential landing spots, but Wise seemed like the best fit.
“I played for Coach Gardner my ninth grade year and I knew he was at Wise, and I knew it would be a good situation,” Hawkins said. “So I told my Mom that I would want to go there. I have family in that area, so [the transfer] was simple…I knew it was a good school and I knew it would be a good situation for me.”
Garner, who says he keeps in touch with Hawkins to see how things are going on and off the court, said had no idea he was in the running for the versatile guard’s services.
“Our communication has always been pretty much ‘how you doing? how you been? you doing okay? you got your grades together?” Garner said. “The first time I talked to Byron Hawkins about the transfer to Wise was when he transferred into Wise.”
Now that the move’s been made, Garner says he believes the addition will elevate Wise to “a whole new level.”
“The thing about Byron Hawkins is he’s an unselfish kid. He can score the basketball with the best of them, but he can run the point, he can play off the ball. But the greatest quality that he has is he’s an unselfish kid,” Garner said. ” I think all the guys are going to receive him like he’s been there for four years…He’s a very humble kid and his hard work speaks for itself, and I think that’s going to be attractive to the kids that have been in the program. He’s going to fit in perfectly.”
The Pumas return four of their top five leading scorers from a team that went 19-6 in 2012-13, including a 14-4 league record and an appearance in the Maryland 4A South title game.
“I have great expectations, I want to win the league, I want to win a state championship, I want to do everything that Coach Garner wants to,” Hawkins said. “My freshman year at Friendly we lost in the semifinals in state, so I want to be able to win for Coach Garner.”
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