Among the leaders of the UTSA Women’s Basketball team, Tija Hawkins sets herself apart with her relentless defense and dominance on offense. Since her debut three seasons ago, she has risen from coming off the bench as a freshman to starting at forward as a sophomore. Now, as a junior, she is a veteran on the team, playing an average 26.8 minutes and netting 11.6 points, an improvement from last season’s 7.5 points per game in 24.8 minutes. Her best game this year came against Texas A&M Kingsville, where she put up 19 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes, pushing the ‘Runners to their sixth win of the season.
The women’s loss to UAB on Jan 17 was her twelfth double digit scoring effort of the season. Going into the C-USA tournament on March 13-16, the experience of Hawkins and the other veterans on the team will be imperative to the Roadrunners’ success.
Growing up, Hawkins’ biggest motivator was her mom. “She was always encouraging me, and helping me out whenever I felt down about something,” she said. Hawkins played other sports growing up, but she didn’t take up basketball until her sophomore year at Robert M. Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas where she was a two-year starting center for the Girls’ Basketball team.
After high school, Hawkins was drawn to UTSA by the women’s basketball coach from 2013-2017, Lubomyr “Luby” Lichonczak.
“[Lichonczak] was very family-oriented and Coach Holt was under him, so me leaving from home, being three hours away, being in a family was very fitting for me,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins mentally prepares for each game by listening to music and has to chew gum every game she plays. Since coming to UTSA, Hawkins says she has learned a lot about perseverance and made a lot of friends. “Teamwork, how to fight through adversity in life, as well as how to be social,” Hawkins said. When she isn’t playing basketball, she likes to paint, go to museums and watch anime. “I’m kind of a nerd,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins is a communication major, and after college she plans on working in journalism or broadcasting.
Hawkins teammates and the people around her are her motivators. “I always try to motivate people,” Hawkins said, “and people motivate me. People motivate me to motivate them.”
At 6’1’’, Hawkins isn’t difficult to spot on the basketball court, but opponents definitely find her difficult to shoot over. Looking forward, Hawkins will be part of a veteran core that will lead the Roadrunners for both the remainder of this year and the next. Catch her in action at home on Jan. 31 at 11:00 a.m. against Western Kentucky University.