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Justin Hawkins is a Rebel with many causes

‘J-Hawk’ gets a special thank-you note from President Obama


Rob Miech

By day, UNLV freshman guard Justin Hawkins wears glasses, is mild-mannered and many classmates don’t know he plays ball for the Rebels. Come game time, he puts on contacts and his aggressiveness comes out. His mother calls him Clark Kent.

Click to enlarge photo

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins celebrates a turnover against UNR during the second half of their game Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the intrastate rivalry 88-75.

UNLV vs. Holy Cross

  • Holy Cross Crusaders(0-4) at UNLV Rebels (3-0)

  • Where: Thomas & Mack Center

  • When: 7 p.m.

  • Coaches: Lon Kruger is 115-53 in six seasons at UNLV and 433-286 in 24 overall seasons; Sean Kearney is 0-4 in his first season at Holy Cross and overall.

  • Series: UNLV leads, 1-0

  • Last time: The Rebels won, 92-75, in Las Vegas on Dec. 29, 1980

  • TV/Radio: None/ESPN Radio 1100-AM


  • G R.J. Evans (6-3, 200) 11.8 ppg, 9 rpg

  • G Andrew Beinert (6-4, 185) 11.3 ppg, 4.1 apg

  • F Mike Cavataio (6-4, 190) 10.5 ppg, 3.5 apg

  • F Eric Meister (6-8, 225) 6.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg

  • C Andrew Keister (6-9, 235) 14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg

  • Bench: G Devin Brown (6-1, 190) 14.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg

  • What to watch: Cavataio left St. John’s to play for the Cross. Evans takes the most shots on the team but has the worst shooting touch – .302. The Crusaders only make 32 percent of their 3-pointers as a team. Beinert has an assists-to-turnovers ratio of better than 3-1. Look for more than a little 2-3 zone defense from HC.


  • G Tre’Von Willis (6-4, 195) 16.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg

  • G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 180) 8.3 ppg, 4 apg

  • G Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215) 7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg

  • F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210) 7.7 ppg, 6 rpg

  • C Brice Massamba (6-10, 240) 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg

  • Bench: G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 9 ppg; F Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190) 8 ppg, 3.7 rpg; G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200) 4.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg; C Matt Shaw (6-8, 240) 6.7 ppg, 3 rpg; G Steve Jones (6-1, 220) 4.3 ppg.

  • What to watch: That turnover percentage rate hit 14.9 (19th in the nation) with those 15 turnovers against Southern Illinois. Wallace is shooting 63.6% beyond the arc. Bellfield and Jasper are shooting a combined 14-for-26 at the free-throw line. UNLV averages 85.7 points and yields 65.3 a game.

Carmen Hawkins pauses as she details the vast charitable commitments and endeavors of her son, UNLV freshman guard Justin Hawkins, since he was 4 years old.

“You’re about to out him, in a way,” she says late Monday night. “Basketball does not know that side of him. He does a lot of stuff without fanfare.”

Others have noticed. The elegant card on White House stationary, with Washington, D.C., embossed on the front and President Barack Obama’s signature inside, arrived for Justin at the Hawkins home two weeks ago.

It thanks him for his selflessness and impressive service to his community. Carmen, who was “jazzed” about it, brought it to Saturday’s game against Southern Illinois.

Justin Hawkins, 19, talks quietly about helping others.

“It puts a smile on my face,” he says, “and makes me warm inside.”

Justin and younger brother Marcus have distributed blankets in skid row sections of Los Angeles with Carmen, and they have served food to the homeless during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

She has seen Justin take the shirt off his back and give it away, and he has always doled out the many shoes and sweats he acquires to aspiring young hoops hopefuls.

He does not plan to be so charitable tonight, when the Rebels play Holy Cross at the Thomas & Mack Center, or Saturday afternoon when the Louisville Cardinals come to town.

But when Justin Hawkins is not on a court, philanthropy is never far from his thoughts.

“You never know how your kid will accept the lessons you try to teach him,” says Carmen Hawkins, a deputy city attorney for the City of Los Angeles. “For me, now, I’m sitting back going, ‘Wow.’ I let him know, but for the Grace of God go I.

“When you see people whose circumstances are less than your own … basketball is just an avenue. It presents opportunities and experiences that he may not have had, but that’s not the beginning, middle or end of his journey in this world.”

UNLV coach Lon Kruger isn’t surprised by some of Justin Hawkins’s extra-curricular activities.

“It’s the way their family has always handled things,” Kruger says. “They’re very respected back home, not just because of basketball but as people considerate of others and always doing things for others.”

The altruism of the Hawkins family begins with Dr. Mable John, the pastor and founder of the Joy in Jesus Ministries in Westchester, Calif.

John once sang with Ray Charles, B.B. King, Sam Cook and the Flamingos. She is Carmen Hawkins’s second cousin and a grandmotherly figure to Justin.

When Carmen was a prosecutor in San Fernando, Calif., every day at lunch she picked up bread, meat and vegetables near the end of their shelf life that were donated by area grocery stores.

Justin helped her unload the food and pass it out on weekends to homeless shelters and the working poor associated with Joy in Jesus.

In conjunction with the ministry’s foster care program, Justin has organized drives to gather, and package and distribute, backpacks and school supplies for needy children.

For Mother’s Day, Justin assembled toiletry bags for the women in the shelters. For three weeks leading up to Christmas, he’d assist the church’s Angel Tree program that grants kids’ gift wishes.

Twice a year, he processed the paperwork for inner-city kids when Carmen Hawkins organized free medical services and treatment through a Teen Heal program.

They have handed out water and oranges at the L.A. Marathon, to raise funds for the ministry’s programs.

At the Genesee Center, a domestic violence shelter, Justin set up computer software programs and streamlined administrative processes. He built slides in the backyard for the kids. He’d drop by every few months.

“I’ll help out, lend a hand and give out clothes,” Hawkins says, “talk to women and children, telling them everything will be all right, that they’ll be fine. I try to be as positive an influence on them as my parents have been on me.”

Carmen has taken her oldest son behind bars so he could experience the other side of crime.

“I’ve tried to teach him to look for the good in everyone,” Carmen Hawkins says. “As long as you teach people with dignity and respect, no matter what their station in life is, they will appreciate that and they will give that back to you.”

At Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft High, Justin ran basketball drills and played games with developmentally disabled kids at an annual summer camp.

“He’s always been good with kids,” says Carmen, “taking the time to make them feel special.”

Justin Hawkins made a hard-core group of deaf UNLV basketball fans feel special when, on a recruiting trip, he conversed with them about the finer points of the game in sign language.

“He just endeared himself to them,” Carmen says. “After the game, everyone was over there ‘signing.’ He reached out to them in their world, as opposed to them trying to adjust to him in his.”

Carmen notes Justin’s dual personas and has called him Clark Kent since high school.

In one, he wears glasses and attends classes. Many of his peers don’t know he plays basketball at UNLV. Teammates don’t even know his legal name – Justin Hawkins-Young.

“People in class see me as a student here from L.A.,” Hawkins says. “I want people to see the true side of me outside basketball. I want people to see me as the student or, when I become a business man, the true nature of me.”

In his other world, he wears contact lenses and was the lone Rebel to score in double figures in UNLV’s first two games.

“By day, I’m this mild-mannered kid,” he says. “I walk around in glasses and keep to myself. When I play basketball, I’m aggressive and will do anything to win.”

He’s just as aggressive off the court, however, when he’s trying to figure out his next way to help someone else. He ponders that note from Obama. Impressive, he says.

“But there are a lot of things,” Justin Hawkins says in his next breath, “that have to be done.”

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  1. Class Act!! Plain and Simple!!!

    Thank you for coming to UNLV and being an example of a quality human being and the fact that you are one heck of a basketball player is the cherry on top!

  2. Great to see that Hawkins has been playing well and that he is also a great leader in the community. It isn't a coincidence that the ones that are the good citizens are the good ball players.

  3. Hawkins!

  4. WOW!!!and I was impressed with him before this article. What a Great kid to have on the team, at the University and in our community!!! Not bad coach Krug not bad....

  5. Total package. His game is pretty solid as well. He and Anthony Marshall are the type of players who look like they are just going to get better and better. Runnin' Rebels!

  6. Is it possible to NOT like this kid?

  7. What an interesting young man. Hopefully you can continue these acts of kindness while in Las Vegas...and hopefully get some of your teammates or classmates involved where time allows. Keep up the Great job and God Bless you and your family. Great Job Coach K and Staff you found a jewel.

  8. Great article, Rob. Having a kid like Hawkins on the team makes me even more proud to be a Rebel!

  9. Thx sf ... he was a bit reluctant to talk about all this. It too a little prying, then a little more, then a little more ... he's very soft-spoken and humble. Audio clips wouldn't have even done this justice ... J-Hawk's mom broke the bank. If we had more time, we would have shown the card from the Prez. Look fro that in the future as a side note.

  10. Enjoyed the Article.

    If CJ and Polee are listening this is exactly why you need to be a Rebel. You will be surrounding yourself with good kids and not just great basketball players.

  11. J-Hawk es el mas chido.

  12. Dear Justin,

    Thank you for being so freaking awesome.

    Go get us a win tonight.

    -President Obama

  13. Wow, very impressive. This is why I am such a Lon Kruger fan... Not only can Justin play the game of basketball at a very high level, he is playing the game of life at even a higher mark. He embodies what UNLV student athletes should strive to be.

  14. I have to give it up to Kruger and company. He's recruiting not just good ballers, but good individuals as well. Try and find a little ounce of corrupted basketball NCAA I dare you. It's not going to happen nor will it ever happen on Lon's watch.

  15. Love Lon Kruger! This guy doens't come here without Lonny. If you remember, this kid committed in the 10th grade. These are the types of kids that will get us to the Final 4.

  16. Right ksiff! GREAT memory... he committed early because he knew what he wanted, and his mother must be commended for instilling in him the qualities in which he always pushes himself ... very classy

  17. Also, how could we forget? UNLV still atop the RPI charts at .8958. Duke (.7967) is second and St. John's (.7678) is third. How much do the Rebels drop just for playing Holy Cross this evening? Will be interesting because that is quite a pad over the Blue Devils ...

  18. Great article about a great kid; I can't add anything that hasn't been said here already. J-Hawk's mom raised an outstanding young man.

  19. He reminds me a lot of Greg Anthony, both as a player and a person. We're extremely lucky to have him.

    And, best of all, wasn't he UNRANKED as a player coming out of high school??

    Always love it when a kid who is not top 150 in H.S. comes into the college game and outplays so many kids who were!!

  20. great article.... j hawk is a stud. On another note... the nickname for our "3-headed monster" at center?..... Boom Boom POW. No? just throwing it out there. :)

  21. runrebs, am sure we'll get more offers about the three-headed monster nickname ... we need to come up with that and something savvy for Kendall Wallace.
    Also, folks, wait till you see the package we have running tomorrow on Oscar Bellfield. It's the anniversary of something big. That's all the tease you get. Mr Ryan Greene did a fantastic job on it.
    Just a little Thanksgiving appetizer to go with your turkey and giblets ... :-) Enjoy

  22. You've already used it in one of your posts, Rob. Kendall is the Squirrel, man. Just think of a squirrel with mighty mouse's build, then add his jersey and his dome. Fantastic!

    Justin Hawkins embodies what Lon Kruger seeks in ALL his recruits; past, present and future.

  23. Boom Boom Pow?

    More like...

    Terrible Lazy Ok!

    I don't see any boom or pow anywhere.

  24. Couldn't help yourself, could ya. 10 years jerking around on message boards..I'm sure you're proud.

  25. I'll take a double double evry nite

  26. Suf, were you not breast fed as a child? You remind me of my 4 year old who stomps on the floor when he's not getting enough attention.

  27. only thing is, grayback, he hates it... KW does not like Squirrel ... "come up with something better," he says ... oh well
    Terrible? Lazy? I think you're talking about yourself.

  28. great kid. love the "normal" dude attitude

  29. Great sroty about J-Hawk! Love this kid and his game, he and Marshall look great. I thought is was a given that K-Dub already has a nickname folks. Go Rebels, beat Louisville!!!

  30. This is the kind of kid ANY program in the country would be fortunate to have wearing their jersey, representing their school....kudos to the coaching staff for identifying him early, signing him, and getting him into the scarlet and gray...and Thanks J-Hawk (and thank you to your family that raised you right), for choosing to represent my alma mater....makes me proud to have athletes like you demonstrating that you can be an athlete and a great person at the same time!!!

  31. Ditto X....How can you not love J Hawk in Rebel Red...I wish every team had a J Hawk the world would be a better place!!!

  32. What an outstanding young man. I'm very proud to have him here. Keep up the great work Justin. Your actions are contagious and inspire others.

    Let's GO Rebels

  33. Haha, of course he's gonna hate it (at first). But, he's quick and he's nimble. How many rebounds did he get against Holy Cross where he seemingly came out of nowhere and grabbed the rock? That's squirrely!

    Next time, ask him, "Have you ever tried to catch a squirrel?" See what he says ;)

  34. Great article, and great human being. Glad to have him a part of the team and even more importantly, UNLV and the community!

    Maybe just call Kendall "Downtown!"