By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLAND, Va. —
Like sister, like brother.
Basketball is just part of life in the Hankins family. Chase Hankins wants that life to continue on.
Hankins, a senior standout for the Bland County Bears, made the decision to continue his education and basketball career at Lynchburg College, signing a letter of intent on Monday in the library at Bland High School.
“I am very thankful and very blessed to be able to continue my basketball career, I just thank God for allowing me to continue and keep going on,” Hankins said. “This has been a dream since I was a little kid to go on and play college ball and I am happy to be able to go do it.”
Hankins, who played for his father, Rich Hankins, at Bland County, follows in the footsteps of his sister, Laurel, also a former standout with the Bears, who is a rising senior and starter at Roanoke College.
“It is great, I can’t wait to watch him play, even if it is at another rival ODAC school, but I am really happy for him,” Laurel said. “I think he is excited and I can’t wait to watch him play.”
Hankins, who was a four-year starter at Bland County, also considered Roanoke, Washington & Lee and King, but chose the Hornets, who were 19-8 last season, including a 9-7 mark in the competitive Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
“I felt like I fit in, it felt like it was where I needed to be, where I should be,” Hankins said. “I felt like the basketball program is doing great. I feel like I can go there and be successful and that is what I was looking for.”
Lynchburg head coach Hilliary Scott, a native of Lynchburg who played at Roanoke College, just completed his fifth season with the Hornets, and was looking for players who can put the ball in the basket.
“We are excited, to really have somebody with his athleticism and his chance at scoring the basketball, we need that,” said Scott, who was alerted to Hankins by Rich Hankins himself. We had a great season last year at 19-8, but I feel like we need to add some guys that can make some shots.
"We try to play fast and Chase with his athleticism and size will be able to step right in and help us.”
The fact that Scott is looking for scoring from Hankins shows just how hard he has worked for this chance. A 1,000 point scorer, who was an All-Region C and All-Mountain Empire District performer, Hankins wasn’t always an offensive threat.
“As an eighth grader Chase had tremendous trouble scoring the basketball,” Rich Hankins said. “He could play the entire game and not score 4 or 5 points, each year he just progressed and got better and better and better and he has put a lot time into it.
“He is very worthy of going and playing at the next level, basically he has worked his tail off to get to this point.”
Work has never been a problem for Chase Hankins, with motivation never being a problem with his coach living under the same roof.
“It has been a ride, it has had its ups and downs, but we ended on a pretty high note,” Hankins said. “I enjoyed that, and we have had a great time doing it. He has taught me practically everything I know and I am going to progress on from that and to what Coach Scott is going to teach me and what I am going to learn at Lynchburg.”
That high note was combining with fellow seniors Asher Dillow, Darryl Clark and John Miller to lead the Bears to a Region C championship — rallying from 19 down in the regional semifinals — and a Group A, Division 1 state tournament berth last season.
Dillow has also decided to play at the next level, having committed to Bluefield College.
“Making it to the state tournament definitely and when we came back against Auburn down 19, that was probably the best (memory) because it was such a hyped game, it was just thrilling,” Hankins said. “We played together since we were in the fifth or sixth grade.
“We have grown up together completely and it was a great ride. We all enjoyed it and we are all very close.”
Rich Hankins, who will face a rebuilding project next year at Bland County, certainly enjoyed watching the Bears reach the goal they set when they were freshmen winning just one game.
“We would have liked to have played one more weekend to get to that Final Four,” said Rich Hankins, whose Bears were beaten by a buzzer-beater in the state quarterfinals. “We have really been blessed to get this far and get to that point in our career and see these kids mature more than anything else, it is a great feeling .”
Laurel Hankins, who averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as a junior last year for the Maroons, has a word of advice for her brother as he steps up to the next level.
“Be aware next year he is a freshman, and it a lot different being a freshman in college than it is high school and just as long as he learns from the seniors and works hard, he is going to have a great four years,” Laurel said. “It has been a great experience (for me). My first semester was pretty hard, but since then I have loved every minute of it.”
Scott is excited to add Hankins to a club that is going to lose nine seniors over the next two years, which will leave playing time available.
“It is going to be up to him…we are losing nine guys here in the next two years,” Scott said. “We need some guys that will be able to come in and have a chance to play right away…It is a tough league and there are a lot of good schools. We are excited that Chase is making that move to us.”
Hankins will make the switch from the small school Bears to college basketball, but Scott doesn’t feel like that step will be a problem for the newest addition to the Hornets.
“I really don’t worry about that kind of stuff because if players can play, it doesn’t really matter where they are from and what size school,” Scott said.
“You still have got to be able to score the ball and you have still go to defend and rebound and we are excited about that.”
He can do all those things.
“He has gotten so much better. Even this year he looked to score a little bit more,” Laurel Hankins said. “He looked to take over more and it shows how much hard work he has put into it and it is really paying off.”
With two kids playing college basketball next fall, Hankins joked about the expense of college, but is excited for the opportunity that awaits.
“Absolutely, this is a great opportunity for Chase to begin with, I think he is really going into a great situation…,” Hankins said.
“It is really exciting for my wife and I to be blessed to have these kids, further their education, number one, and number two, have a chance to play basketball, it is really great.”
No one knows that better than his son, who continues to Chase his basketball dreams.
“I am excited and thankful,” Chase Hankins said. “I am very blessed.”
— Contact Brian Woodson