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Hawkins one of county's early hoops stars

When Susan Hawkins made a behind-the-back pass in a game, she wasn't trying to be flashy.

It was just her way of getting the ball to an open teammate.

More than 20 years ago, when Hawkins made those exciting passes as a Parkview basketball player, she was ahead of her time.

She had the skills to make the lineup as a freshman, the grit to lead her team to the state playoffs and the talent to become a Division I player.

Hawkins, who played under her maiden name of Brandau, is part of the third class to be inducted into the Gwinnett Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday at Gwinnett Braves Stadium.

"I'm still kind of like 'wow' that I'm achieving this," Hawkins said. "It's kind of humbling."

Hawkins, a 1991 Parkview grad, was an all-around athlete, playing softball, basketball and tennis in high school.

She was a four-year starter at shortstop in softball and helped the Panthers to three region title and state runner-up finishes. She put up some impressive numbers at the plate, hitting .486 as a freshman, .512 as a sophomore, .734 as a junior and .912 as a senior. During her junior year she had a 27-game hitting streak and hit for the cycle 11 times in her career. Hawkins was named the county's player of the year twice and was a member of the USSSA world champions in 1989.

"I really enjoyed softball," Hawkins said. "At the time, I had more opportunity with basketball."

Hawkins gave up tennis after two years to focus on AAU basketball in the spring. The extra time on the court paid off.

Hawkins made the varsity basketball team, which was coached by Mike Lee, as a freshman. With a group of talented upperclassmen around her, she was able to blend right in with the team. She averaged a modest 7.4 points a game and 4.4 assists that first year.

"I was a little intimidated as a freshman. I had to learn quick," Hawkins said. "It took Sherry Swindell, who said, "You can do this.' It gave me confidence hearing those words from a senior."

Hawkins settled into her role as the team's point guard as a sophomore. Her points (14.6) and assists (5.5) rose and she made a career-high 16 assists as the team won the sub-region title.

Parkview had its greatest success during Hawkins's junior year. She led the county in assists with 9.2 and averaged 15.7, which got a boost from a career-high 38 points. Parkview won the region championship and finished fifth in the state as Hawkins was named the county's player of the year.

"I enjoyed being the point guard and the leader on the team," Hawkins said. "I never felt like a ball hog. I was willing to pass to whoever was open."

Hawkins led the county in assists again as a senior with 9.1 and averaged 18.9 points to repeat as county player of the year.

"My senior year I had to take more of a shooting role and scoring role," Hawkins said.

She scored 1,256 points in her career and her 664 career assists is a Gwinnett County Public Schools record.

"I was about getting the job done. I loved to pass," Hawkins said.

Hawkins's talents drew the attention of college recruiters and she signed with Duke University. At the time, a Division I signing was a rarity for girl basketball players in the county.

"I was definitely attracted to the education Duke provided and offered," Hawkins said. "(Debbie Leonard) was looking for the kind of point guard I felt like I was."

Hawkins saw significant action her freshman year, but Leonard was gone after the 1991-92 season. Gail Goestenkors was hired and Hawkins's playing time diminished. The worst was her junior year when she only played in 10 games.

"It was hard because my junior year I sat the bench, but the same year I got the heart and hustle award," Hawkins said. "It made me grow as a person. I had to realize basketball wasn't who I was."

Hawkins was a four-time ACC honor roll selection and graduated in 1995 with a wealth of learning experiences on and off the court.

"It really showed me the different roles people play on a team," Hawkins said. "Duke gave me a lot of great experiences. It gave me a well-rounded perspective to be on a team."

After college, Hawkins coached and taught at Norcross for three years, leading the volleyball team to the inaugural Gwinnett County championship in 1998.

Hawkins met her husband Chad at church when she was living in Gwinnett and the couple has been married for 16 years. They live in Tennessee with their four children -- Hunter, 12, Caeli, 10, Rune, 7 and Saber, 3 -- but are moving to Bentonville, Ark., later this month.

Hawkins is still involved with athletics, coaching her sons in basketball and baseball. She'll get some occasional funny looks when parents find out it's her and not her husband that's the team's coach.

"People are shocked I can coach my sons," she said.

They just don't realize the team is in good hands with one of Gwinnett County's all-time great athletes.

"I'm the kind of person who I don't like to say, 'I'm getting inducted into the hall of fame,'" Hawkins said. "I feel like I'm the low person on the totem pole. The others have accolades far superior to mine. It's pretty amazing to be selected with them."