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From March Madness to sadness, Utica's Hawkins experiences emotional roller-coaster in first season at Robert Morris

Former Proctor standout Jalen Hawkins helped the Colonials to an NEC title and would-be trip to the NCAA Tournament before it was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 21, 2020 12:29 AM

UTICA, N.Y. - Former Proctor basketball standout Jalen Hawkins returned to Utica for the summer as a North East Conference (NEC) champion.

After playing one year of junior college, the former Raiders star just finished his first year playing NCAA Division I basketball. He helped Robert Morris University capture its conference title, and at the time, an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

"The first year of Division I basketball was a major success," Hawkins said. "I had to come in and learn how to play the game of basketball the right way. My coach had faith in me to teach me the right way and it was an amazing experience."

The NEC top-seed Colonials topped No. 2 Saint Francis University of Pennsylvania 77-67 in the championship game on March 10 with Hawkins logging 22 minutes of game action, registering three points, three rebounds and an assist. The game was broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Less than 48 hours later, on March 12, the NCAA announced that the national tournament would be cancelled due to the widespread coronavirus outbreak.

"That was a major disappointment to me and my team especially our seniors who are having a great year this year," said Hawkins. "The tournament is a major way to get seen by scouts and major deals."

According to Hawkins, Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole had words of encouragement for the team after the devastating news.

He told us to stay positive and to always stay in the gym," said Hawkins. "No matter what happens just stay positive."

Expecting a bigger role next season, Hawkins said Coach Toole told him he wants him to take more shots and become a more prominent part of the offense.

Those words plus the abrupt ending to this season has the Utica native itching already for next season to begin.

"It's a lot of motivation," he said. "I can't wait for it to come."

Hawkins finished the season averaging 7.3 points, 1.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game.

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