By Madisen Carter
Unlimited Potential Basketball’s player development coach, Ashley Hawkins, has been a part of the UPB team almost a full year now. As a player development coach, Ashley has been able to teach and mentor young athletes to become the best they can be in basketball on and off the court. Recently, she was able to take her training skills to a place far from home but also has a piece of home: to the University of Illinois, where her younger brother, Coleman Hawkins, plays Division I basketball.
During the last week of September, Hawkins traveled to Champaign, Illinois to spend time with her younger brother, Coleman. Hawkins had been to the University of Illinois a few times before with her brother, but not post-pandemic. This time she was able to get a tour of the campus, go out and eat, and also spend more time with her brother and his teammates.
During her time on the campus, she was also able to get in a few workouts. Hawkins said she led two basketball workouts at Illinois, with the first workout including only her brother. Hawkins and her brother have worked out and shot hoops with each other plenty of times in the past, but this time it was different now that she is a coach and he is playing for a university in the Big Ten Conference.
“I never thought that one day I would actually [be a] trainer and then be at his college training [him,]” Hawkins said. “That was a really special moment because in the past [we would joke and put] up shots, you know, but this time was more serious. It was actually me putting him through a workout, and it was intense and it was just fun.”
Coleman, now a sophomore at Illinois, graduated from Napa’s Prolific Prep in 2020 and helped lead Prolific Prep to a 31-3 record. Last season as a Freshman, he played in 25 games. Coleman enjoyed his workout with Hawkins and appreciated that they both continue to learn from each other.
“I think my favorite part [about the workout] was just having that connection, that brother and sister connection. I have seen her play D1, and she has gone through this process and now I am the little brother and now I get to go through this process,” Coleman said. “I think that is pretty cool and not many families can say that they have done this before.”
On to Hawkins’ second workout of the day, that was when Illinois women's basketball players Sara Anastasieska, De’myla Brown and Solape Amusan joined the session. During that workout they focused on different combo moves into finishes such as the eurostep, spin moves and step throughs. They also worked on ball handling and shooting, working from the midrange and then moving out to the three-point line. Hawkins said the workout was close to the traditional UPB workouts she normally does at the facility.
Anastasieska, who has been a client at UPB for years now, was happy to be working out with Hawkins, and she said it felt like she was back in the Bay Area working out at UPB. Anastasieska and Hawkins have known eachother since she first signed with Illinois and said they have been close friends ever since.
“I love working with Ashley. She's learned so many things from Packie, and it shows through her workouts and stuff, so it was really fun,” Anastasieska said.
Within her time at UPB, Hawkins said her favorite part about being a player development coach at the facility is the relationships she has built with her clients.
“It just makes my day when I can come in and I can talk to a kid, and they can tell me things that aren’t even basketball related,” Hawkins said. “Just knowing that I can be there for them on and off the court and be a mentor for them, it just makes the day more fun, just being able to relate to these kids and stuff like that and help them out.”
Basketball has been a part of Hawkins’ life since she was a child. She grew up playing in her backyard and had family practices with her dad, but she was not on an official team until she was in the eighth grade. Since then she has made it into her high school’s Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame at Antelope High school, she played for two years at Vincennes University where she was ranked in the top 100 JUCO women’s basketball players in the 2013-14 season, and then went on to finish her college career at the University of Evansville. Her passion for basketball continues to grow every day.
“I always look back and think ‘what would I be without basketball, who would I be?’” Hawkins said. “It got me a full ride scholarship and I have no debt right now, I [have] made some of the best friends, I get to travel all over the country. So, it just means a lot to me. It's my passion and I just can't see my life without basketball.”