Those who have seen Tianna Hawkins' entire journey at the University of Maryland can remember the time just four years ago when she was ranked 133rd by some as a senior coming out of high school.
Fast forward to April of 2013 and the conversation has changed to top-36 in her class without question, meaning she is a lock to be drafted into the WNBA. And she is top-12 in all likelihood, meaning she will go in the first round.
And then, what is perhaps the most surreal thing for even Tianna to wrap her mind around is the fact that some people even say top-4, which is quite possible and quite an honor. She has gone from No. 133 to the point where she could perhaps be the next player taken after the much-anticipated "3 To See."
"I really don't feed into it," Hawkins said of potentially being the fourth name called in a WNBA draft that could be remembered for a long time. "I just know that I have to perform well at whatever I do. And I just try to focus on what's happening today."
It is that kind of levelheadedness that has made Tianna the player she is today, a player that has never settled for anything. She knows that if she is to become a great WNBA player it is not going to be by becoming complacent because of the accolades she has now received.
She will always have that chip on her shoulder.
Tianna's basketball career, which is about to defy expectations and see her turn pro, began with her family's influence.
"When I was younger my grandfather would always tell my mother that me and my sister were too tall to be cheerleaders or on the swim team and stuff like that - we needed to be playing basketball," Hawkins said. "My mother and my grandfather are the two main ones that really motivate me to be successful at whatever I do."
Tianna's relationship with her twin sister Tierra has also greatly shaped who she is. Tianna and Tierra are fraternal twins, who played basketball on the same team in high school, but also got a taste of being on opposite sides in college, as the Terps took on Tierra's Delaware State team in December of 2011.
"We've been very competitive I guess since the first day out of the womb," Hawkins said, smiling. "When we were younger we would always compete on dumb stuff like whoever puts their seat belt on first wins. It just makes my competitiveness strong."
When it came time to pick a college, Tianna didn't stray far from her family or her hometown of Clinton, Md. She chose to go to College Park where Terrapin head coach Brenda Frese saw her potential.
And it wasn't like Tianna hadn't had some success in high school. Despite not being a highly-ranked recruit, Hawkins was Maryland's 2008-09 Gatorade State Player of the Year during her senior year at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md.
"I think the biggest thing I saw with Tianna was just her feel for the game," Frese said. "She could shoot it - could really put the ball in the basket - and could rebound. I saw she was out of shape and didn't really know how to push through that wall, but I thought [those were] things that were going to be easy to correct. But [she] definitely had a tremendous feel for the game."
As a freshman in 2009-10, Hawkins played in all 34 of Maryland's games, started in nine, and averaged 22.9 minutes, 9.2 points and 7.5 rebounds - numbers that aren't too far off from averaging a double-double. Not bad for someone who is known mainly for her improvement since freshman year.
Her numbers took a dip as a sophomore, but as a junior the 6-3 forward started in every game of the season for the first time in her collegiate career and averaged a solid 12 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, making her one of the key contributors on an Elite Eight team.
From an individual perspective, one of the highlights of Tianna's junior year was her 24-rebound performance in a home game on January 29, 2012 against Wake Forest. That stands as the single-game rebound record for the Maryland women and is a feat that will be difficult for future generations to match.
Tianna's story has always been about heart and effort and of course rebounding. It has also always been about her having one of the more interesting life ambitions and chosen academic focuses that a person can have. She has studied criminology and criminal justice at Maryland and intends to one day become a federal agent.
In fact, she had an internship with the Secret Service as a rising junior.
"I know basketball for women doesn't last forever," Hawkins said. "You always have to have a backup plan, and that's my backup plan."
But it has become just that - a backup plan, because Tianna now has the ability to choose between her two dreams, the other being playing basketball professionally.
And while she may have been on the WNBA's radar as a junior, it was her incredible senior campaign that sealed her status as a top prospect.
Everything changed for Tianna this past season. Her story became about more than just work ethic and toughness and started to include gaudy numbers and star status.
In 2012-13 she took her game to the next level, becoming an All-ACC first team player, an Associated Press All-America honorable mention and the third leading scorer in the ACC at 18 points per game after tournament play - a significant jump from her scoring output in her first three years.
With Maryland's 2011-12 second leading scorer Laurin Mincy lost for all but the first five games of the season to an ACL tear, Hawkins' emergence as a big time scorer was invaluable to the Terps this year. However, when interviewed at the beginning of February, Hawkins said she came in thinking her senior year was "do or die" even before Mincy went down.
Because of her determination, she was able to come out and show the rest of the nation the kind of star power that she had and, along with junior Alyssa Thomas, form arguably the most feared duo in the entire ACC this year.
When Thomas was also interviewed in February she commended Tianna for going all in as a senior.
"I think she understands the importance - it's her last year and last chance to really go out there and show people what she's made of." Thomas said. "And I think she's done a fantastic job of just leaving everything she has left."
Tianna got recognized for many different aspects of her game this year, but rebounding is still what she prides herself in the most. She was second in the ACC with 9.7 rebounds a game as a senior, and also reached the mark of 1,000 career rebounds in a game at Boston College in February. Only Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman on the women's side and Len Elmore on the men's side have also reached that mark for Maryland, putting Hawkins in exclusive company.
"I think from a basketball end, Tianna will be defined by her rebounding," Frese said. "Just her relentless pursuit of the basketball stands out - the 24 rebounds that she had against Wake Forest and being one of only three [women's] players to secure over 1,000 rebounds in her career. But I think the underlying theme of all that with Tianna is the discipline that it took for her to get herself in shape and to put herself in position to be successful."
Without a doubt, Tianna will go down as one of the all-time great rebounders at Maryland, as well as a great all-around power forward. She has had an amazing senior year to say the least, but the journey has just begun and she couldn't be more excited about the thought of playing in the pros.
"One minute I say ‘I'm so excited' and another minute I'll say ‘I can't believe it,'" Hawkins said. "This is a dream come true. Because when you are younger, when you want to play basketball, your first thing is like ‘I want to play in the WNBA.' Just to see my once dream come true - I can't believe it and I just have to keep on working hard every day."
And for a player who came to Maryland in part because of how close it was to her home, playing for the Washington Mystics, who possess the fourth overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, would be the icing on the cake.
"I would love it," Hawkins said of potentially playing in D.C., the city where she was born. "I love home and just having my family, who is a huge support system for me, come out and see me play, would be so awesome. When I was younger I did go to a few Mystics games and I always said if I had to play in the WNBA I would want to play for the Mystics."
But regardless of who drafts her and in which city she continues her legacy, it is safe to say that she has left her imprint on D.C./Maryland area basketball. Not too many people can say they played at the level she did in that area in both high school and college.
And no matter where she ends up, she can walk away from her college career knowing she left it all on the court her senior year.
Tianna's wish for her lasting impact on the program she has called home for the past four years is to be remembered for her rebounding and aggressiveness - the two things that have defined not just her game, but Maryland women's basketball in general over the past couple of years.
And it is no coincidence that Tianna and Maryland women's basketball's identities became one and the same.
For more on the 2013 WNBA Draft, check out our draft prospects storystream.