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Brad Hawks wanted a pro basketball career. What he got was a chance to craft a high school team with the skills to reach for a state title.
T.J. WITTEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Carroll County head coach Brad Hawks built the team's skills carefully since his arrival in 2008.
The Roanoke Times | File
Carroll County’s Ryan Gravley will play for the West basketball team.
Friday, March 1, 2013
One big career disappointment turned into another career gain for Brad Hawks.
And Carroll County's boys basketball team and their young head coach are reaping the benefit.
Hawks envisioned a possible professional career as a player when he graduated from Division II Tusculum (Tenn.) in 2005.
"I had plans on going overseas and playing ball," Hawks said. "I went and worked out for a couple of CBA teams. I went to a couple of free agent camps in Las Vegas. I worked out for the Great Falls Explorers in Montana.
"It just didn't work out."
Wherever one door is slammed, another opens.
A Galax High School graduate, he returned home to coach the junior varsity team at his alma mater, then things really began looking up for the 6-foot-6 Hawks.
He met his future wife, Mallory, then three years later in 2008 he was hired as the boys head coach at Carroll County at the ripe old age of 25.
"I wanted to get in coaching somewhere down the line. It ended up being a good thing," Hawks said. "I moved back and met my wife. We've got a 2-year-old little girl and another girl on the way in July."
Hawks' first team at Carroll County also was just learning to walk.
He took over a program that went 20-5 the previous year under Jason Smith, but the team returned just one player with varsity experience.
"The first year we were 4-19," Hawks said. "We won two of them at the buzzer. It could have been worse. The second year we were 2-18. I told them when they hired me I thought it was going to take three or four years to get it headed in the right direction."
Carroll's team bus is headed toward Salem today where the Cavaliers will try to reach their first state semifinal in 33 years when they face E.C. Glass in a Group AA Division 4 quarterfinal at 8:30 p.m. at Salem Civic Center.
The Cavaliers last played in a state quarterfinal game in 1991. Understandably, the community is amped.
When Carroll County (24-2) defeated Salem 66-48 last Saturday in Hillsville to win the Region IV title, the gymnasium was packed 30 minutes before tipoff and the home crowd was loud and proud.
"The excitement is definitely there," Hawks said. "The community has really come forth and supported us big time."
Hawks saw the same thing unfold two years ago in Galax, where the Maroon Tide won the first of two straight Group A Division 1 state titles after decades of trying.
The seniors on Galax's team were sixth-graders when Hawks took that JV job back in 2005.
"I knew they would definitely have something special," Hawks said. "It was a big deal. It was something special for the city of Galax. I'm glad it happened."
Now Hawks hopes it's Carroll County's turn.
Carroll County's girls team reached the Division 4 state semifinals last year after defeating Staunton River in a quarterfinal in Salem. Hawks knew his boys might follow a similar path, so he scheduled a late-season game at the civic center against private school power Virginia Episcopal.
VES throttled the Cavaliers 62-34 for their first loss of the year after an 18-0 start.
"We scheduled that game thinking we may have a good shot at playing in the state quarters there. It ended up working out well. The caliber of team we played in VES, I think that will do nothing but help us in the long run."
Carroll will have to get by another Lynchburg team tonight. E.C. Glass is led by 6-foot-9 center Karl Overstreet and a host of quick guards and small forwards.
"The big kid in the middle definitely worries me," Hawks said. "The wing players seem to be really aggressive, really athletic. That really worries me as far as the rebounding goes."
Hawks, who is still Tusculum's career leader in field goal percentage and blocked shots, knows plenty about rebounding, whether from quick end to his playing days or a slow start to his coaching career.
The Carroll County coach has plenty of support.
Well-wishers last Saturday included Cavaliers girls coach Marc Motley along with Grant Smythers, a former boys head coach at Carroll County and Salem.
Hawks talks almost daily with Carroll County track coach Pat Sharp, who was the star player on the Cavaliers' back-to-back state semifinal teams in 1979-80 and the coach of the 1991 squad. The star of the 1991 team, Tee Jackson, is one of Hawks' assistants.
Carroll principal Chuck Thompson knows athletics too. His father, Tommy Thompson, was Frank Beamer's head football coach at Hillsville High in the early 1960s.
"Chuck is a sports guy. He's been one of our biggest supporters all year long," Hawks said. "He's there interested in the kids. That means a lot to have our administration interested in our student-athletes, and that goes all the way up to the top."
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