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    Hawkins leading Eagles to new heights

    photoFreedom senior Darren Hawkins rises for a shot with a group of Battlefield players defending in a Jan. 18 home game. Hawkins is a four-year varsity player for the Eagles.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny

    Darren Hawkins

    -High School: Freedom
    -Club team: VA Elite
    -Sport: Basketball
    -Position: Guard
    -Height: 6-foot-2
    -Accolades: 2012 All-Cedar Run second team


    For the first time in his four-year varsity basketball career, Freedom High School senior guard Darren Hawkins is experiencing a winning season.

    The Eagles’ previous best season during Hawkins’ tenure was a 7-16 record in 2010-2011.

    But this year, the Eagles have doubled their number of wins from last year, boasting a 10-8 record with four games remaining in the regular season, plus district playoffs.

    “It’s the best season I’ve experienced here at Freedom,” Hawkins said.

    Hawkins, who is averaging more than 15 points a game and has posted eight games with 20 or more points, is a large part of his teams’ success.

    “I’ve asked a lot of him all four years and I’ve put a lot of pressure on him,” Freedom coach Derek Gaunt admitted. “I put a lot of pressure on him as a freshman and he used it to continually get better.”

    “It’s rare that you get a kid that has coachability and talent and when you got them both like I have in Darren, you’ve got a winner,” he added.

    While Hawkins is a prolific scorer, some of his greatest contributions on the court are his intangibles, say his coaches and teammates.

    “He’s a consummate leader,” Gaunt said. “He knows what it takes to put his teammates in a position to make them better but when it comes to crunch time, he knows he’s going to be the guy I look to to get us over that hump, whatever that hump may be, whether it’s a lackluster practice or a game-winning shot.”

    Teammate Kyle Wrighte, who runs the point for the Eagles, agrees and notes that Hawkins is who he looks to in a tight situation.

    “When we need him, we go to him and it seems to work out most of the time,” Wrighte said. “Whenever I get the ball and my head goes up, Darren’s always in the back of my mind.”

    Hawkins acknowledges his position as team captain and leader and strives to make his teammates better. Both Hawkins and his coach have set a goal for the emerging Eagles, which is to advance to the regional playoffs for the first time.

    Though Freedom currently sits third in the six-team Cedar Run District, just one game behind Battlefield and three games behind the first place Stonewall Jackson, Hawkins feels neither a district tournament title nor a regional bid are out of reach.

    “I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential,” Hawkins said. “The sky is the limit.”

    However far the Eagles manage to soar, Gaunt and his team know one thing: Hawkins will be leading the flock.

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