Jonathan Hawkins, former NNU basketball player and current assistant men’s basketball coach, has come full circle with his sport since graduating in 2013.
Hawkins found himself in the center of an international professional basketball whirlwind when in March 2014 he had the opportunity to leave his work as a substitute teacher in Washington, D.C. to help Jurmala in the Lativian LBL league make history.
Next he headed to Gold Coast, Australia to play professional ball September through December as part of a unique ministry opportunity.
“I was doing full-time ministry, five days a week at a Christian high school,” Hawkins said, adding that he also practiced with the pro team owned by the high school along with teammate and school chaplain, Ben Thompson.
Hawkins’ team played in an Australian league similar to the NBA D-League and provides pros a chance to fine-tune their game as they work their way onto one of the top pro teams in the country.
The opportunity to minister at the school, as well as to his teammates, and do it all through basketball was a dream come true for the 6-foot-3 guard originally from Greenway High School in Phoenix, Arizona.
“It was so evident. I was just really confident in God's plan for me. My priority is investing in people’s lives.”
“It was so evident. I was just really confident in God's plan for me. My priority is investing in people’s lives,” said Hawkins, who in two seasons at NNU (2011-12 & 2012-13) played in 51 games, averaging 11.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Hawkins also hit 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers, dished out 182 assists, made 42 steals and is No. 1 all-time in Crusader basketball history in free-throw percentage, making 167-of-184 charity tosses (90.8 percent).
Despite thoroughly enjoying his experiences overseas, Hawkins decided it was time to return home. “I did a few tours with Athletes in Action and Sports for the Nations in a few countries and by the end was okay with walking away from playing basketball,” Hawkins explained. But after returning to Phoenix, Hawkins realized that he couldn’t quite settle in. Instead, a return to NNU as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team would be the next open door.
This summer was a time of change for the men’s basketball team at NNU, as new head coach Scott Flemming was hired. As Coach Flemming began searching for assistant coaches, Hawkins made it a priority to be as available as possible. “During the time he was looking, I made sure to be around the gym and help him with recruits by participating in workouts. I prayed for the opportunity. I knew the timing of my return wasn’t a coincidence—it was a Godincidence. Thankfully, God opened the door for me to walk through!”
This move back to NNU has been a dream come true for Hawkins, who explained, “When I graduated in 2013 I knew I would end up back here coaching in the future. I loved my experience here as a student, and I chose to play here because I wanted to grow in my relationship with Jesus. Since being back I’ve been able to continue that growth.”
Now that the season has begun and Homecoming is just around the corner, Hawkins has begun to settle into what God had laid out for him. “I couldn’t be blessed any more by our Father. I go to work loving what I do. The interactions I get to have with my players on a daily basis is why God has brought me back to coach.”
Photo credit: Kari Stetson