There are many special stories inside this historic Trojan basketball team this year, but few embody the spirit and the city quite like Josh Hagins.
Hagins grew up in a military family and moved to Little Rock in kindergarten when his family was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. It was in Little Rock that Hagins began to get serious in basketball.
“I started AAU basketball here, I started getting serious when I was here. I remember my first tryouts with the Arkansas Hawks, I was playing on the base and I was the best player around. I tryout for AAU and I was nothing compared to some of these guys,” Hagins reflects. “Then I remember our first nationals, we thought were in the national championship, turns out it was just the NIT bracket, but we were just little kids, couldn’t tell us anything.”
Hagins stayed in Little Rock through the sixth grade, playing AAU basketball and building deep connections with the city, his coaches, and other players.
“AAU is sort of where you learn to man up, it teaches you about competition and about life,” Hagins explains. “The AAU coaches all did a good job with me growing up, it is special to have them see what I turned into. I still work out with them from time to time.”
After moving from Little Rock Hagins’ family settled in Bossier City where he continued to play AAU with the Louisiana Roundballers, winning a national championship with the squad. As Hagins developed roots in Bossier City, Little Rock always held a part of him.
“Home is really two places for me, is here and bossier city. It is where i finished up school at,” Hagins says. “I couldn’t choose between the two, it is right down the middle. I feel Little Rock is the place that I grew up.”
When time came to pick a college his love of Little Rock weighed heavily on his decision.
“I have a lot of fond memories here, it is a special place for me. It is the main reason I decided to come back, those memories. I have a lot of people who use to coach me growing up, they come to a lot of the games,” Haggins tells us. “Every time I come into Little Rock I always get that feeling inside. it is where I grew up, and the place that made me.”
College basketball at Little Rock was full of ups and downs for Hagins. The Trojans struggled, going 45-50 over his first three seasons. At the same time Hagin’s role on the team grew a little each year. Despite the team’s struggles, it never got Hagins down.
“In college it has been a struggle, and we have been through a lot,” Hagins says. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world though. I love this university and I appreciate everything they have done for me.”
Entering his final year with a new coach, things started to turn up. A new coaching philosophy from coach Chris Beard brought a new mindset and a rejuvenation to the program.
The attitude of our team is that we do not care who gets the points, we just play to win. That is really hard to come by in college. There are teams out there with guys who get 20 points, lose, and they are ok with that. None of us are ok with a good statistical night and still loosing,” Hagins explains. “We play every possession like it is the final one, when we do that you see a team that is completely unselfish. At the end of the day we do not care who is the leading scorer, we just want to see how many rings we have.”
As a senior Hagins is more interested in the legacy of the team than any individual accolades. That is telling for someone who ranks in the top 10 for a large number all time statistical categories. Hagins is mature beyond his years in his view of what this season means.
“My main thing throughout the course of sports has been to do something that people can’t forget,” Hagins says. “I am just glad that this team now is re-paying for everything this athletic program and university has done for us. To build this kind of athletic program it take a lot of time and a lot of investment, for us to go out this way it means a lot to me.”
Hagins believes the success of this team is only the beginning.
“I want this team to be one of the pieces to really turning this school around and helping us sustain this level of excellence,” Hagins tells us. “I do not see why this place cannot turn into Gonzaga or VCU and be repeatedly excellent. This is a great spot in a great city, and the fan support right now is crazy. I love where this program is headed. Especially with coach beard and the staff, the sky’s the limit.”
For Hagins’ future, he wants to continue making a difference off the court after he graduates this year.
“I just want to make a difference the best way I know how. I am good with kids, I am doing an internship at Sylvan Hills and I love it,” Hagins says. “I just want to be a positive influence any way I can. If I can touch some kids early and change their thoughts on how to go about their life that would mean a lot to me.”