Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions
LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

Zach Hankins didn't get any Division I looks out of high school.

Those Division I looks came in earnest this past year, his junior season at Ferris State.

And on Thursday, Hankins, the big man from Charlevoix, Mich., announced he was pursuing a graduate transfer to Xavier, a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament.

It's the latest big development for Hankins, the Division II player of the year who last month led the Bulldogs to their first national championship.

"It's awesome for me to think about," Hankins said Thursday night, stepping out of the library in Big Rapids to take a phone call.

"There's a pretty big following in Cincinnati, a powerhouse in the NCAA -- they've been in 12 of the last 13 NCAA Tournaments. It's definitely really exciting for me.

"Also, I recognize that Ferris State has had a ton of success as well, and I love that. In a way, I'm moving up, but in a way I still like I've been on this level already."

Hankins, 21, will graduate in June and be eligible to play right away in 2018-19.

He first expressed interest in a future in Division I in the fall, which caught his coach, Andy Bronkema, a few days to wrap his head around.

But once Bronkema did, he made the phone calls, including to Xavier, then coached by Chris Mack. Mack left for Louisville recently, and his assistant -- another key recruiter of Hankins -- Travis Steele got the Xavier head-coaching job.

"I've had a close relationship with Coach Bronk for a number of years, he was the coach who gave me a chance. I have a great deal of respect for him," said Hankins, 21, who played three years at Ferris State, after red-shirting his freshman season. "He wasn't very happy at first. He was a little bit hurt. He's built this program up, he's made plans. It took him a couple days just to come around, but when he did, he said, 'I want to be your guy, I want to help you out.'"

More: Fate made Zach Hankins ‘best-ever’ at Ferris

Bronkema called six schools, and among those that had significant interest in Hankins, aside from Xavier, were Michigan State, Ohio State and Texas Tech.

Xavier got a commitment about four months ago.

But when Mack left for Louisville, there was a possibility a spot could open up there. That didn't come to fruition, however, and while Hankins briefly opened up his search while Steele was in limbo, he stuck with Steele when he got the Xavier job.

"He told me I was still definitely a priority," Hankins, 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds, said of Steele. "He was very adamant in recruiting, telling me I was a priority."

Xavier was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but was upset in the second round by Florida State. Xavier finished the season 29-6, with a Big East championship.

Hankins averaged 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds this season, a year that ended at the Final Four in San Antonio, where he picked up his NABC DII player-of-the-year award, while Bronkema collected his NABC DII coach-of-the-year award.

At Ferris State, which was 38-1 this season, Hankins was the all-time blocks leader (319), the all-time leader in field-goal percentage (.666), and holds single-season records in rebounds (380, this season), field-goal percentage (71.1, this season) and blocks (130, last season).

Following the DII NCAA Tournament, Bronkema called Hankins "the best-ever, period," in regard to Ferris State basketball.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE