WHITE PINE, Tenn. (BVM) — Madi Hawk’s play on the basketball court is advanced for her age. That is to be expected as she has had years of experience playing people as much as six years her senior since she first started playing varsity high school basketball as a seventh grader at Lakeway Christian Academy.
“The experience there in middle school was definitely different than what the competition was [at Tellico Middle],” Hawk said. “I was just better than everyone else. It wasn’t really any competition that’s kind of why we moved because nobody was pushing me and I wasn’t getting better.”
Did the difference in age cause a disadvantage for Hawk? Not based on what she could do to opponents.
“She was able to play immediately,” Lakeway Christian Academy head girls basketball coach Randy Coffman said. “She was the leading scorer [that year] with almost 15 points a game. It’s been a really cool thing to watch her grow up here.”
Although she didn’t think much about the age gap, Hawk admitted she definitely felt the difference going from middle school to high school play. Not only was she undersized, but the difference in strength was noticeable.
“It was definitely a struggle at first,” Hawk said. “They were so much stronger than me. I was a little weak seventh grader that was five foot so it was definitely a struggle, but it molded me. It was a really big benefit. … It made me so much stronger and my IQ went up so much. I definitely think now playing at such a young age against older competition definitely helped me mature.”
In her first year with LCA, Hawk would contribute to a Lions team that would reach the National Association of Christian Athletics Division IV national championship game, eventually losing to Faith Christian (Va.) 45-37. With a renewed energy and another year with her teammates, Hawk would come back even sharper for her eighth grade season, which was crucial for the Lions.
Last year, Hawk helped lead LCA to a 22-4 record and a spot in the NACA national tournament. Once there, the Lions avoided a repeat of the previous season this time winning the NACA Division IV national championship with a 72-50 win over Riverdale Baptist (Md.). Hawk would contribute 15 points in the championship game.
“Madi’s a special player,” Coffman said. “She’s unique in her passion, work ethic and just God-given ability. It’s exciting to watch her growth and development and be a part of it.”
For Hawk, the championship was a moment she won’t soon forget.
“It felt really good especially when we got the victories,” Hawk said. “Once we won NACA, it was the best feeling in the world. We all started crying. It was amazing.”
In addition to her play with the Lions, Hawk is also a member of Elite 80 WBB which specializes in exposing middle school players to DII, DIII, JUCO and NAIA schools while also preparing them for high school play. Hawk has also participated in a number of regional and national camps including a few collegiate camps with invites from the programs. Most recently, Hawk participated in the Blue Star 30, an elite camp which brings the 70 middle school aged basketball players in the country together for a four-day training session.
“The Blue Star 30 was a really good camp,” Hawk said. “It showed me my weaknesses that I definitely needed to work on. … I think it’s going to help me in the coming season knowing what I need to get better for college and to go DI.”
With her success at LCA, Hawk has also garnered the attention from a number of Division I programs. These programs include Maryland, Mississippi State, Stanford, Clemson, and Wisconsin, among others. Her recruitment also took a surprising turn in May.
When Hawk visited Murray State University in Murray, Ky. with her family, she was expecting more of the same from the coaching staff that most recruits get. A tour of the facilities, an explanation of what separates their program from the rest and so on. However, Murray State head women’s basketball coach Rechelle Turner had bigger plans for the eighth grader and offered her a scholarship on the spot. It was Hawk’s first Division I college offer and she was both shocked and humbled.
“I was not expecting it,” Hawk said. “We kind of went on a little tour of the school and coach Turner sat me and my mom down in her office and she was like, ‘We want to offer you a scholarship to come play at Murray State.’ … I was just kind of sitting there in shock because I did not think it was going to happen. It was the best feeling in the world.”
“Rechelle told Madi ‘I want you to remember who offered you first and who believed in you first,’” Coffman said. “Madi’s had every school reach out to her from Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, etc. She’s sitting back and enjoying the ride and she’s a vet to that because of her early success.”
I just want to give a BIG thank you to MURRAY STATE UNIVERSITY and @racersWBBcoach @monicajean14 @AmberGuffey5 for believing in me as an 8th grader and offering me a scholarship to play basketball on the D1 level. @BoostWbb pic.twitter.com/g79xfYEmTE
— Madi hawk (@madihawk_basket) May 28, 2020
With LCA preparing for its first season outside of the NACA, instead joining the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association this season, Hawk will be doing so with a target on your back. Not many underclassmen already have a Division I scholarship offer under their belts and even fewer receive them when they’re in eighth grade. However, even with the pressure, there is an expectation that the Lions will compete for their first state championship this year.
“The goal at Lakeway is winning the last game and that requires you to be involved in state,” Coffman said. “That’s the goal, playing in state. Playing for a state championship gives a sense of community and we wanted that investment and sense of pride for our community.”
Hawk is ready for the opportunity to expand her resume with a state title this season.
“It’s made me 10 times more excited because now I know not only can we make an undefeated season, but we can actually go in and actually compete for a state title,” Hawk said. “Since we can, our team has worked so much harder and I feel like we’re all wanting the same thing. We all want to win the state championship. I want to win the next four years and I think we can.”
When she does make it back to the court, Hawk will do so with some attitude. Sure, she is young, but she is unafraid on the court.
“Expect me to always bring my 110%,” Hawk said. “When I step on the court you’d better be ready to play or just don’t show up because it’s going to be bad for you. It’s about competition and that’s what I bring. I bring the intensity.”
While it may seem hard to believe that a 15-year-old such as Hawk could be so talented so early, all it takes is a few minutes of action to see why she has caught the attention of teams at the next level. Now entering her first varsity season as a true member of her high school community, Hawk’s presence will seem a bit more normal even though her play is anything but.