Friends, family celebrate Jordan Hankins’ selflessness, warmth


Source: Northwestern Athletics

Weinberg sophomore Jordan Hankins handles the ball for Northwestern. Hankins took her own life Jan. 9.

Matthew Choi and Khadrice Rollins

INDIANAPOLIS — Anyone who coached Jordan Hankins knows her signature phrase.

“I got this.”

That’s what Kevin Merriweather, who knew Hankins for 12 years as a coach and mentor, told a filled sanctuary at Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis. Friends and family from across the country, including more than 20 Northwestern students along with members of the women’s basketball team, gathered at the church for Hankins’ memorial service Thursday.

Hankins, 19, took her own life on Jan. 9. A native of Indianapolis, the Weinberg sophomore was a guard on the women’s basketball team and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was on the pre-med track, according to her Facebook page.

She will be buried Jan. 23 in North Carolina, where she was born.

Hankins was a devout Christian, and Pastor Jeffrey Johnson, Sr., who officiated the ceremony, said the service was a “home going,” referring to the Christian belief of returning to a home created by God after death.

“We are not bodies that possess souls. We are souls that live in bodies,” Johnson said. “The memory we have of Jordan, death can’t take that away.”

Three of Hankins’ former coaches offered remarks remembering their time with Hankins on and off the court. Chris Giffin, Hankins’ coach when she was on the varsity basketball team at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, spoke about the many ways Hankins demonstrated selflessness toward her teammates and classmates.

Hankins volunteered at her church through youth ministries and with students with disabilities at her school. Giffin recalled Hankins’ connection to the students and children she worked with and her willingness to reach out to every part of the school’s community, including faculty, administration and custodial staff.

“They say that character is what you’re doing and what you do when no one else is around. When nobody else is looking,” Giffin said. “If you use those definitions to assess Jordan in her life and what she meant to so many people out here today, including myself, then you quickly realize there isn’t anybody who had a stronger character than Jordan Hankins.”

NU women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown recited Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman,” which he said was descriptive of Hankins.

McKeown recounted a time when he toured Lawrence North High School with Hankins and Giffin. He was struck by how warmly Hankins reacted to everyone around her. “They swarm around me, a hive of honey bees,” he said, quoting Angelou’s poem.

“She was a magnet,” McKeown said. “They swarmed her, and the ones who swarmed her the most were the ones she loved the most — the special needs children that she (worked with). I’ll never forget.”

Members of the NU women’s basketball program were also in attendance, but did not speak at the ceremony. The team has begun to settle back into its normal routine, but sophomore guard Amber Jamison, whom McKeown described as “unbelievably close” to Hankins, said it was still surreal.

“Playing (Saturday against Indiana), it was really tough for me to even step foot on the court because I felt like we shouldn’t be playing without her,” Jamison said Monday. “This isn’t right. She would want to be out here.”

Against Indiana, Jamison wore Hankins’ No. 5 jersey and said it felt like having Hankins on the court as the Wildcats triumphed 80-67. Additionally, players wore patches with Hankins’ initials, something McKeown said he expects to continue for the remainder of the season.

Players pointed to Hankins’ smile and energy on the court as traits they will never forget about her. They said they plan to play with Hankins’ aggression and swagger for the remainder of the season and emulate her work ethic in practice.

“She was always in the gym, always doing everything that she could to get on the court,” Jamison said. “So just having that worker’s mentality and then having the confidence. Because you knew when she came in, as soon as the ball touched her hands, it was going up.”

Letters of condolence from the governor of Indiana, representatives in Congress and members of the church were read during the service. The service ended with final words of comfort from Pastor Johnson, who urged attendees to remember Hankins for her life and celebrate her legacy.

“Everybody here is part of our family. Remember that,” coach Merriweather said. “Remember what she said. ‘I got this.’”

A previous version of this story misquoted Jeffrey Johnson, Sr. Johnson said the memorial service was a “home going,” referring to the Christian belief of returning to a home created by God after death. The Daily regrets the error.

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Twitter: @matthewchoi2018

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KhadriceRollins