Tianna Hawkins is a rugged rebounder and leads the nation in… (Evan Habeeb, US PRESSWIRE )
Tianna Hawkins never really was one for Barbie dolls and cartoons. As her mother remembers it, Tianna was barely out of diapers before something a little different had caught her attention.
And it certainly wasn't pink or sparkly.
"Ever since she was 4 years old, her favorite show was 'COPS,'" Latanya Hawkins said Friday.
Seventeen years after her first foray into the world of getaway cars and police standoffs, it's easy to see why labeling Hawkins as Maryland's shooting star these days might cause a bit of confusion.
For one, the junior forward leads the nation in field-goal accuracy, her 62.9 percentage outranking even all-everything Baylor center Brittney Griner (61.3 percent) and helping lift the second-seeded Terps into Sunday's regional semifinal matchup against defending national champion Texas A&M in Raleigh, N.C.
Then there's this: Hawkins spent last summer interning with the Secret Service. Legally, Hawkins can't say much about her time with the agency — asked about her formal training, Hawkins replied, "I can't go into detail exactly what they did" — but what she can includes memories of the James J. Rowley Training Center in Laurel.
In her two weeks spent on the 500-acre campus, she saw a mock-up of Air Force One parked on the tarmac of a replica airport. She visited a canine training facility. She laid eyes on a 250,000-gallon, welded aluminum swimming pool used for water safety and rescue training.
She also readied, aimed and fired more than a few times on the center's shooting ranges. Which, naturally, raises the question: Do her Terps teammates feel more or less safe knowing one of their most dangerous on-court options has formal training in being, well, armed and dangerous?
"Absolutely secure," coach Brenda Frese said, laughing. "You know that Tianna has your back, whether it's on the shooting range and her with a gun, or her on the court. Everyone knows how tough she is."
That Hawkins may have a future in law enforcement isn't surprising. Her past, after all, is firmly rooted in the cops-and-robbers background of her grandfather, James Hawkins, who was a longtime police officer and U.S. Marshal.
So when Hawkins as a kid was asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, the answer was always the same: law enforcement. She loved "CSI: Miami," and a job like the ones she saw David Caruso and Emily Procter depict on TV — always ready with a zinging one-liner, forever on the lookout for the bad guy — was, to say the least, appealing.
But there was one small problem.
"I wanted to be a CSI," Hawkins said, "but I'm kind of freaked out about dead people."
The new dream job, Hawkins said, is federal agent, a noble calling that invites its share of skepticism from sarcastic teammates. Apparently, some of them don't think Maryland's all-time single-game rebounding record-holder is capable of corralling a criminal.
"They always tease me a lot," Hawkins said, rattling off the list of her supposed flaws. "You're too clumsy to be an officer. If you're chasing someone, they can get away."
She might not have to worry about that for at least a few more years. A second-team All-ACC selection and USBWA National Player of the Week this season, Hawkins has gone from an under-the-radar recruit out of Riverdale Baptist School in Upper Marlboro to an overachieving double-double machine. A professional career in a basketball arena, not some stuffy government office or police station, might yet beckon for the Clinton native after next season.
"Tianna definitely realizes there's going to be a lot of options on the table for her when she graduates," Frese said. "I think that's exciting. She can follow her heart and decide which direction she wants to go."
Latanya Hawkins, for whatever it's worth, hopes it's to more shootarounds, not more firing ranges.
"I've just seen pictures [of Tianna shooting]," she said. "That's not really my thing."