Javontae Hawkins is a 25 year old 196cm forward from Huntigton, West Virginia playing his third professional season and first with the Crailsheim Merlins currently averaging 16,4ppg, 4,5rpg and 1,4apg. Last season he played with Holargos B.C. (Greece-A1) playing 29 games averaging 11.7ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.5%. As a rookie he played with the Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 54 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 54.9%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 79.9%. He played NCAA basketball at three schools with S Florida from 2012-2014 playing 54 NCAA games, then had his break out season with Eastern Kentucky (NCAA) playing 30 games averaging 17.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 76.5% and finished at Fordham (NCAA) playing 31 games averaging 14.0ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 84.3%. He spoke to germanhoops.com last summer about his basketball career.
Thanks Jovantae for talking to germanhoops.com. Congrats on signing with German BBL team Crailsheim Merlins. After coming from the competitive Greek league, you now seek the next step in the BBL. What do you know about this powerful league and have you had friends, ex teammates or opponents play here?
I know this is a popular, competitive league in Europe. I’ve had a college coach/mentor Michael Bradley who played for Berlin some years ago, and I have a former college teammate Jarelle Reischel who played last year in BBL. Also Christian Sengfelder my teammate at Fordham.
The Crailsheim Merlins like that you can play various positions as well as your athleticism and defense. How much of a deciding factor that allowed you sign for your third professional season with them was having your ex teammate Aaron Jones on board?
That was huge, me being humble and confident in what I do on the court I feel that my versatile game as a shooting guard, small forward and even a power forward (if asked because of team circumstances) are rare in Europe and I’m willing to do whatever coach ask of me as well as showcase my ability and talent to help the team win games. Aaron Jones was a major factor in me coming here to Crailsheim. He’s been like a brother to me ever since we were teammates in Finland, and we stayed in contact almost every other week for two years and I believe that with us 2 having the chemistry we have along with Joonas who was our head coach in Finland’s top pro league and the system of Coach Tuomas we are in a position to do great things in the BBL this year.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re an allrounder that can do it all at both ends of the court. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I really don’t get into comparing my game to anyone particular because I just love to enjoy the game as well as win games. But I look at how guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Andre Igudala, and Kawhi Leonard approached the game throughout their careers as two way players and they did it by having a competitive, intensified approach every night by guarding the best player and then being able to make plays on the offensive end as well.
You are a dangerous scorer, can rebound and also set up your teammates. What other strengths does your game possess that fans will be able to witness this season in Germany?
I feel like the support of my teammates is something that the fans will be able to witness. I’m big on support and recognizing it as a strength because it helps not only the players but the coaches to trust players in tough game situations. It builds the confidence in every player as a unit. And bringing energy and being a leader.
Coach Tuomas Iisalo likes your defense. Do you envision yourself being a defensive stopper for the Crailsheim Merlins as well as being a main contributor on the offensive end?
Yes, I consider myself as a basketball player. Someone who just works hard even in uncomfortable situations. I am looking to be the best that I can be on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. It’s important when looking to win games.
Your a player that can fill the stat sheet with ease, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that isn’t always seen by others on the court?
I feel that when I am in the right situation with the trust of a coach and teammates and also teammates and coaches being able to trust me then I can thrive to be the best that I can be.
Last season you played with Holargos B.C. (Greece-A1, starting five) playing 29 games averaging 11.7ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.5%. What kind of experience was it playing in the competitive Greek league and how do you feel did your game grow in your second season?
It was an experience that I learned how to deal with adversity with an organization and league as a whole and figured out how to bring out the good during bad situations. Being in the Greek league helped me grow as a person and player.
You played very well and consistently against Euroleague powerhouse teams Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. What kind of experience was it playing against the top Euroleague player Keith Langford? Is he a guy where you tried to soak up as most as possible just from seeing his game?
It was a great experience. When I see guys like Keith Langford and knowing how good he is and the type of resume he holds throughout Europe it only gets me in a state of mind that I have a chance to do what he’s done and does currently. Playing against him really helped me focus on the importance of being valuable to a team and being valuable in general.
As a rookie you played for the Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 54 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 54.9%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 79.9%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I didn’t really have a wake up call at all. I’m from Flint, Michigan, I grew up with nothing so I know what it takes to grind even when things may feel uncomfortable, I knew and know there are going to be times that are good and times that are bad but I always knew and know that the good will always outweigh the bad it’s just about being patient and having perseverance.
How enjoyable and profitable was this rookie season playing many games and playing 14 playoff games. Was the game six 99-96 loss to Kauhajoki one of those games that you will never forget?
I will never forget that game me, Tobin Carberry, Aaron Jones and Jaylon Brown talk about it all the time! Must respect to those guys at Kauhajoki they were the best team. I’m not a man of excuses or a guy to complain. But I was ruled out of the playoffs in the first round due to a really bad ankle sprain that even kept me sidelined most of summer 2018 and lingered into my 2nd professional season in Greece, we also had Aaron Jones who was hurt with a knee problem at the time also the death of a close family member and EuroLeague point guard Teemu Ranniko being out throughout the whole playoffs. I feel like if we were 100% healthy at the time it would’ve been a different story but hats off to the Kauhajoki team, they played exceptionally well the whole series.
You began your NCAA career with South Florida (NCAA) in 2012 playing a total of 54 games, but never averaging more than 4,7ppg. Despite not playing much and having a less of a role, what positives did you pick up from this season that allowed you to shine at Eastern Kentucky right away?
The positives that I picked up when I left South Florida was to never give up and God is going to carry me through my whole career if I just have the faith and mindset to know that my career is going to be great. I worked extremely hard the year. I had to sit out. It allowed me to regain focus, to develop a skill set and to trust the process through the good and bad.
What memories do you have of the 61-58 victory against Georgetown and Otto Porter where you scored 13 points? Was this one of your most memorable wins at South Florida?
For sure! That was a memorable game for me. I was a freshman only 18 years old and I was going up against a future lottery pick and helped my team seal the win.
After sitting out a season due to transfer rules, you blew up at Eastern Kentucky (NCAA) playing 30 games averaging 17.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 76.5%. Did you learn anything about your game during that season that you hadn’t known before?
I learned how to never let anyone or any circumstance derail my confidence. I learned how to separate myself away from all negativity and focus on the goal I had and that was to be a pro.
In the 97-81 win over Tennessee State you exploded for 36 points. What do you remember most about this game and do you feel like this truly put you on the NCAA map?
This game was a great game. Tennessee State was one of the best teams in the OVC and I honestly felt that I couldn’t miss that game. At one point I think I had 12 points in 1 min. I always go back and watch that game on YouTube.
You were teammates with German Jerelle Reischel who has BBL experience. What do you remember most about his game and what was your fondest moment with him?
That’s my guy till this day. He is very talented, he can play multiple positions and he has a smooth jump shot. My fondest moment was just always being at the apartment in college playing video games, and watching NBA highlights. We we’re always around each other back at Eastern Kentucky.
You played a last year at Fordham after graduating from Eastern Kentucky. Why did you do that? You had had a great season at Eastern Kentucky and could of started your professional career sooner?
A lot of people ask me this question. But when I left South Florida I signed with Eastern Kentucky under head coach Jeff Neubauer, well after I sat out that one year he left Eastern Kentucky and took the head coaching job at Fordham, I tried to leave with him right away because of the player-coach relationship we had and still have till this day and the NCAA denied it unless I graduated that summer. However I didn’t have enough college credits to graduate that summer because I was only a junior in college so I had to play one year at Eastern Kentucky in order to graduate and transfer to play right away without sitting out at Fordham the next year. The reason I left EKU is because I met people at Fordham who I knew I could have and leave an impact on till this day vise versa. And also that’s where I picked up my defensive principles and having a defensive mindset under Jeff Neubauer and every year I thank him for that.
In your last season you were teammates with German Christian Sengfelder. Would you have thought then that he would develop so well as a player? And how excited are you to be playing him this season and do you have any friendly bets already going?
Big C! That’s my guy, every since I’ve known Chris he’s been an extremely hard worker; I knew once we were out of college he was going to thrive in being a professional, we have no friendly bets but I’m looking forward to playing against him and talking with him as well. I wish him the best success this year.
How did head coach Jeff Neubauer give you that last push in helping you be groomed and prepared best for a professional career?
He helped me with having a defensive mindset, He always helped me with being a leader and doing the right thing by making the right choices, I will always appreciate him for that.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Will Tavares?
I did. 3 dribbles max.
Who has been the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA or in Europe?
Toughest player I had to battle I would say Russ Smith at Louisville.
Please list your five best teammates of all-time?
Zach LeDay Andrew Wiggins Aaron Jones Tobin Carberry Jaylon Brown
Please name your personal own NBA Rushmore. Which four heads would you pick past or present for your list?
Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant Magic Johnson LeBron James
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
Michael Jordan not because of the rings but because he retired twice and still has the stats he had. Just imagine if he never retired.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Javontae for the chat.