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February 14, 2013

Hawkins advances, Kool draws defending champion in 'Shots from the Heart' tournament

When asked to participate in the 3rd annual Shots from the Heart free-throw tournament, WMU men's basketball head coach Steve Hawkins and assistant coach David Kool didn't have to think twice.

According to a press release from CollegeInsider.com, Shots from the Heart is designed to help create awareness for heart disease and pay tribute to former Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser, who passed away on July 26, 2007 of a heart attack. The event is hosted online by CollegeInsider.com and sponsored by the Skip Prosser Foundation and the American Heart Association.

For the first time in the events three-year history, non-coaches will be included in this year's tournament bracket. Former Kent State basketball star and current NFL tight end Antonio Gates is just one of several non-coaching participants that includes well-known members of the media, along with current and former professional athletes.

Hawkins drew CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel in the first round of the tournament and won, converting on an impressive 22 out of 25 free-throw attempts.

"Coach Hawk's a good free-throw shooter," said assistant coach David Kool, who is also a participant in the national tournament. "I don't know if people believe me when I say that but I've seen him out here. He doesn't work on it a lot but when he does, he makes them."

"I think he comes here at night when we're not here and turns on the lights and props it up. He could surprise some people. I tip my hat to coach, he gets it done."

Opponents in the Shots from the Heart annual tournament do not compete on an actual court against one another. Each participant shoots 25 free-throws at their convenience within a two-week time span, while a member of the athletic department tallies the official results. Using a tiered scoring system in each round to avoid ties, the challenger with the most points advances to the next round until a tournament champion is ultimately decided.

"It's about all I've got left in my game," Hawkins said when asked what his chances are in advancing.

"At one point and time I was the guy that stood out on the perimeter and could always knock down a shot, but after the knees went the shot stayed. The legs are the first thing to go when you get tired, so the jump shot went away and all that's left is the free throws. So I can still knock down some free throws."

Hawkins now faces Quinnipiac's Tom Moore in the second round, and if he advances he faces a potential match-up with either Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk, or defending tournament champion Sean Miller (Arizona).

When asked whether or not the coach would be participating in any smack-talking, Hawkins responded, "It has happened. I haven't participated in the past in those things. But when it comes to the Fashionable Four, there has definitely been some smack there that has gone on. But when it comes to free throws, there will be a little bit of fun here and there but I'm not good enough to talk trash."

Assistant coach David Kool, however, isn't taking the tournament as lightly.

"I sent a message to another one of my coaching buddies, Luke Strege who's at Eastern Kentucky. I saw he was on the bottom half of the bracket so I said if we meet in the Final Four, I'm not going to take it easy on you."

As many Bronco fans are acutely aware of, Kool is an 89% career free-throw shooter from his playing days at Western Michigan University -- good for second all-time in program history. Kool is first all-time in program history with 605 career free throws made.

"I hope I can win it all. My competitive juices are flowing now, so I think it'd be fun to keep on going. I just hope the other guys aren't cheating over there."

In the assistant coaches bracket, Kool begins the first round facing defending champion Carmen Maciariello of Boston University who was rumored to have hit 43 consecutive free throws in last year's tournament.

"I feel like they didn't pre-rank the shooters because I don't know how I got matched up against the defending champion," said Kool jokingly.

Kool went on to drain 24 of his 25 free-throws (missing his fourth attempt) and is waiting to hear back the results of his opponent. If he advances, he'll have a chance to face former Bronco and current Oakland assistant Saddi Washington in the second round.

"Facing Saddi would be fun obviously with him being a former Bronco and me being here now," said Kool. "Obviously we hold a lot of the records here so I think it'd be just a fun match-up."

"I can see us now bantering back and forth over twitter and having some fun with that. I haven't said much to Saddi yet but I know I will once we find out the results here."

Steve Hawkins' first association with CollegeInsider.com was the mid-major poll. Hawkins has been a voting member for the mid-major poll for several years now and believes that CollegeInsider.com is one of the best things to come around, especially in mid-major basketball.

"[CollegeInsider.com does] a million different things and they do all of them well," said Hawkins.

"They've now branched off and are doing a lot of charity work as well. It's a fun way to bring awareness to that from the basketball world. They do all kinds of good things and [Shots from the Heart] is one of them."

"It's a great thing to do to help raise awareness," added David Kool. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

You can follow the CollegeInsider.com Shots from the Heart tournament brackets here. The tournament finals are expected to occur in April.

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