Senior guard Maya Hawkins left the Tudor Fieldhouse floor for the final time to a standing ovation and a hug from her head coach Tina Langley. Her team was about to complete a Women’s Basketball Invitational championship victory on its home floor in her last game as a graduating senior. When the buzzer sounded, she ran onto the court to celebrate with her teammates, who hoisted her onto their shoulders amid the cheering student section. For Hawkins, the moment could not have been sweeter.
“Honestly, the best part about ending my career with a championship for Rice was ending it at Rice on our home court in front of our fans that have cheered me on during my entire career,” Hawkins said. “The feeling is something that I will always remember.”
Following the victory, she was named the most valuable player of the tournament. In all, she averaged 15.8 points and 6.5 assists per game in the four postseason contests. Her best performance came in the semifinal against the University of Idaho when she scored 25 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. She attributed her performance to her mindset heading into each game.
“I've played basketball since I was five years old, and I've competed in more tournaments than I can count,” Hawkins said. “I think that preparation and experience coupled with our coaches’ reminders to stay focused on the moment and on the task at hand helped me to simply worry about playing as hard as I could for 40 minutes.”
The championship victory was the pinnacle of an illustrious four-year career. Touted as the No. 25 recruit in Texas by Joey Simmons’ Premier Basketball Report, Hawkins played 19 games and started 14 during her freshman season, scoring 7.0 points in 26.4 minutes per game. She was named Rice’s freshman of the year thanks to her performance. According to Hawkins, however, she had a lot of work left to do.
“Coming in as a freshman, I thought I understood what leadership was, but I only understood the surface,” Hawkins said. “Now as a senior, I think my time at Rice allowed me to grow drastically in my leadership abilities and I can attribute that growth to all of the coaches I've encountered at Rice.”
After a coaching change following her sophomore year, Hawkins emerged as a star. She scored 10.7 points and added 4.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game her junior year. This season, she improved her assist and rebound totals to put up 10.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game while starting all 35 games.
Next season, the Owls will have to move on without the help of Hawkins or fellow senior Jasmine Goodwine, who was also named to the All-WBI First Team. Coming off the championship victory, however, expectations will remain high. Hawkins said she believes the team can live up to those lofty hopes.
“Rice women's basketball has a bright future,” Hawkins said. “Behind Coach Langley, I think this team is capable of winning our conference tournament. The success that Rice will have will be fun to watch and I know we are only scratching the surface of what this program can and will accomplish.”
While the championship victory will be remembered for years to come, Hawkins is hoping her legacy has nothing to do with winning or losing. As she graduates from Rice, Hawkins is hoping she has left a positive impact on the basketball program.
“I hope I am remembered for being a passionate player who competed for Rice at the best of my ability regardless of who we were playing or what the score was,” Hawkins said. “I hope I helped create an atmosphere around Rice women's basketball that is exciting and fun to watch.”