HARRISBURG — For four years Harrisburg’s Matty Hawkins has been quietly, but efficiently, batting away shots.
Blocking shots was something she did well, but not something she spent a lot of time thinking about. Then, coach Jake Stewart did a little research.
“Early last year I was online looking at some stuff record-wise, I’m always interested in stuff like that,” he said. “I saw what the (Illinois) Top 20 was at the time. I looked at her stats and she was something like 16th all-time. That opened my eyes a little bit.”
“I didn’t have any idea until last year they announced it in front of the fans,” Hawkins said. “I’m like, ‘What? I didn’t even know this.’ Sometimes, I don’t feel that good about my game until I look at my stats.”
Going into last night’s game with Benton, Hawkins had 551 career blocks, good for sixth in state history. The state record is 626 by Manito’s Jill Berg.
The 6-foot-2 senior averages about seven blocks per game. With three regular season games remaining, Hawkins could challenge the all-time record if the Bulldogs make a deep run in the state tournament.
Hawkins is also a stellar volleyball player. She will be attending Trinity International University on a volleyball scholarship next year. All those hours of volleyball training are paying off on the basketball floor.
“I definitely think volleyball helped me a lot, the timing and the swat,” she said. “I was kind of excited about it at first, but now I’m kind of, ‘Ah, I’m 6-foot-2.’ There is so much training in volleyball, to hit, to block, reps, and reps and reps. I think that definitely helps with my timing because volleyball is all about timing.”
But, Hawkins is more than just a goaltender. She plays solid on-ball defense as well.
“I think she gets more on-ball blocks, she does get some on help, but I think most of her blocks come from somebody trying to post her up,” Stewart said. “A lot of teams go after her early in a game, trying to get her in foul trouble. She’s been really good at staying away from fouls and just getting clean blocks.”
Of course, the Bulldogs do what they can to take advantage of Hawkins' ability to bat the ball away.
“That goes along with what we want to do defensively,” Stewart said. “We want to push people to her. If she is low on fouls, we’re going to try to push people to her. If she doesn’t block it, she’s going to force them to take a tough shot.”
Although Hawkins can swat the ball into the bleachers, she has a knack for keeping the ball in play on a block.
“She does a really good job of keeping the ball inbounds,” Stewart said. “I’ve seen multiple times where people shoot the ball and she just catches it. That’s happened a few times in her career.”
In the meantime, Hawkins has also grown as an offensive player. Her freshman and sophomore seasons she was surrounded by 1,000-point scorers Kelsey Hobbs and Alexa Burtis. She didn’t have to score. That changed last year.
Since Christmas, Hawkins has been scoring at a 17-20 point per game pace. She surpassed the 1,000-point plateau last week.
“I honestly think I just grew into my tallness,” Hawkins said. “Coach Stewart pushed me a lot and so did the JV players. I give all props to them.”
“Matty can get a rebound and go coast-to-coast if she wants to,” Stewart said. ‘She can go left or right. She can shoot outside. She’s just a very versatile player.”
But, bottom line, she still enjoys blocking shots.
“I can usually tell when I’m about to block it,” Hawkins said. “It’s exciting. It’s like, ‘Here comes another one. People are going to cheer.’”
She’s heard those cheers 551 times in her career.