The swagger has been part of Javaunte Hawkins’ game for some time. It’s there when he puts up an NBA three-pointer, or when he’s slashing through the lane or firing off a pass.
Mikel Henderson is starting to show more of that swagger too. And while it may still be June and several months before the games count for real, the Lee’s Summit North guards already have their swagger in midseason form.
“We’re just kind of establishing why we’re the best backcourt in the state,” Hawkins said. “Just try to come out and perform and take over the game.”
There is some basis for Hawkins’ statement, even during the always optimistic days of summer camps and evening leagues. The 5-foot-10 Hawkins and the 6-0 Henderson will be seniors and the driving force of a smaller North team next season. Besides running up and down the floor while playing in North’s annual summer league, Hawkins and Henderson helped power the Broncos to a 9-0 record and the championship of the KAMO Hoops Shootout earlier this month at Shawnee Mission East.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“I feel there’s no one better than me and Mikel at the one-two,” Hawkins said after North beat North Kansas City and Oak Park June 21 in another night of summer league play. “Sometimes we make each other mad when we take stupid shots, but sometimes we’re both just playmakers want to make it happen.”
Hawkins made it happen during North’s 13-11 season last year. A deadly three-point shooter, he led the Broncos with 22 points per game and made 40 percent of his three-point attempts. Hawkins holds the Broncos’ single-game scoring record of 39 points, which he achieved twice this season.
Henderson, who averaged 9.4 points per game last season, took some more time to develop. Academically ineligible as a sophomore, he didn’t find his footing last season until a wrist injury sidelined Hawkins just before the holiday break. Henderson was asked to take up the scoring slack, and he responded by hitting double digits four times in a five-game stretch, including 24 points in a win over Raymore-Peculiar, while Hawkins was recuperating.
“I saw Mikel really start to show what he can do last January,” North coach Mike Hilbert said. “I really think part of his development were the games that Javaunte got injured. We had to really tell him you’ve got to step into this scoring role and be more of a leader. He developed some confidence and the other guys started to trust him a little bit.”
Henderson admitted to being a little uncomfortable at first, but it had nothing to do with his backcourt mate.
“We’ve been playing together since eighth grade,” Henderson said. “It’s always fun playing with each other and we feed off each other well. We hang out outside the court too so we have that friendship.”
That trust grew stronger over the course of the season and continued to grow this summer. Hawkins and Henderson both showed off their shooting range during last week’s summer league games. In the final seconds against North Kansas City, Hawkins drew a foul driving the lane and sank the game-winning free throw.
“I think those two guys together are pretty dangerous,” Hilbert said. “Both of them can handle and beat people off the dribble and get to the basket. Both of them can catch and shoot from 24-25 feet and in. It makes them tough to guard.”
Hawkins’ emphasis this summer has been on making sure everybody on the floor is involved, and Hilbert has been excited to see how that’s affected the rest of the team. He’s seen other players stepping up their games, including 6-5 incoming senior forward Tommy Erwin – the tallest Bronco currently on the roster – and guards like Dayne Davis, Kolby Franklin and Bryan Carter.
“There’s something special about this group as far as chemistry, as far playing together, as far as trusting each other and playing for each other,” Hilbert said. “It’s June, there’s a long ways to go, particularly on the defensive end. And I think we’ve got lot of space between where we are and our ceiling.
“When we get in the gym in November, I think we’re going to have a really good feeling about what our identity is. And that’s what we want to develop in June.”
Hawkins and Henderson developed their identity well before the 20 allotted workout days in June. They just embellished it a little, and Hilbert was fine with that.
“Whether I like or don’t like it, it’s who they are,” Hilbert said. “They think they’re the two best players on the court and I think that’s a good thing.”