By Josh Briggs, The Covington News
COVINGTON, Ga. - Newton's Jamon Hawkins left his mark on the Ram's basketball program. Now he's off to Georgia Southwestern State University for the next chapter in his life. Hawkins accepted a four-year scholarship and signed his letter of intent Friday with his parents, coaches and administrators in attendance.
Hawkins and Rams' coach Rick Rasmussen travelled to Americus on April 22 to workout with players from the current GSW Hurricanes team and head coach Mike Leeder. After a few hours, Leeder saw enough and offered the 2009 Covington News Player of the Year a scholarship on the spot.
"I think Jamon is a quality person that played in an outstanding program," Leeder said. "When you combine those two things you have a young man that we will benefit our program on the court, in the classroom and in the community. He is a H.O.P.E. scholar and we are very excited that he chose to continue his academic and athletic career here at GSW."
Hawkins had a stellar senior season for Newton, averaging 15 points, six assists and five rebounds a game, and led the Rams to a 20-7 record. He poured in a career-high 29 points in the first game of the season and it is his ability to score and find teammates that made it an easy decision for Leeder to make Hawkins an offer.
"We really liked Jamon's ability to shoot and his feel for the game," he said. "As you know the college 3-point line moved back last season, and shooting is even more at a premium. His shooting will hopefully open up dribble drive lanes as well as allowing our post guys more freedom to play without the fear of a quick double team."
Leeder said he will play Hawkins (6-0, 175) at one of the two guard spots and expects him to contribute as soon as his second year. Hawkins is expected to redshirt his freshman year.
Rasmussen had worked diligently with Hawkins and his parents to try and find a good fit for his departing star shooting guard. And while Hawkins had garnered interest from other programs such as Southern Methodist, South Carolina State and Wichita State to name a few, Rasmussen believes GSW is a good fit.
"I am very proud of Jamon and excited for him to have this special opportunity to continue playing the game he loves, while getting an excellent education at a reputable Georgia state school," he said. "When we visited the campus, I was very impressed with the improvements to the academic and athletic facilities at GSW, and I believe Jamon will do very well there. Coach Leeder has a winning resume and in only his third year there, has really begun to turn the program around, since they've made the move up to the NCAA Division 2 level."
Hawkins mother Geri, an assistant principal at Livingston, played at GSW in the 80s and current Newton athletic director Tracy Curtis also attended and played basketball for the Hurricanes.
Leeder admits Hawkins will need to work hard especially in the weight room, but he is ready to teach his newest guard the tools he needs to assume his new role.
"He comes from a very well-coached high school program at Newton, and already has an outstanding feel for the game," Leeder said. "As he grows into his body it will be our job to make sure that he continues to improve as an overall player as he gains physical strength and physical maturity."
Hawkins leaves behind a long list of accomplishments as well as a coach he's played for his entire high school career. Nevertheless, Rasmussen knows he's ready and will do well at the next level.
"Jamon has been an outstanding player and steward of the Newton Basketball program the last four years and I couldn't be happier for him," he said. "He has matured, improved and strengthened his academic and basketball abilities since he came to NHS as a freshman on our varsity team. He has done everything we asked him to on and off the court and improved every season.
"Jamon is a fundamentally sound and disciplined player. He has a polished game, has a great jump shot, is very unselfish and has a great feel for the game. He will only get better as he develops in college. We feel GSW will be a great situation for Jamon to get his education and to showcase his abilities at the next level. This opportunity was truly an answer to prayer and we know that he will not take this opportunity lightly."
PICTURED: (back row, left to right) NHS AD Tracy Curtis, Newton coaches Rick Rasmussen and Bill Dolan, principal Roderick Sams, (front) Jamon's father Antly and mother Geri
PHOTO BY: Brittany Thomas, The Covington News