By Allie Burger
Shock and sadness continue to radiate through the Chicago women’s basketball community following the suicide of Northwestern sophomore Jordan Hankins.
As Northwestern continues to deal with the aftermath of Hankins’ Jan. 9 death, the effects of the tragedy have also extended to surrounding women’s programs.
Loyola’s coach Kate Achter finished off practice last Wednesday in a circle with her team as they always do. Each woman draped an arm over the player next to her or tugged on her teammate’s shorts or sleeve. In team huddles, Achter insists her players are always physically connected, a reminder that each person plays an integral part of the unit and that no one is alone.
She talked to her team about the loss of Hankins, a Wildcats’ guard, and let players know they would be signing cards to send to their rivals 15 minutes north on Sheridan Road.
“Any time a member of the women’s basketball community is lost, we all feel it,” Achter said. “You put yourself in [Joe McKeown’s] shoes as a coach and you can’t imagine the pain he’s going through because you care about these kids like they’re your own.”
DePaul coach Doug Bruno shared similar sentiments and emphasized the human element within the inner-city competition.
“You fight for two hours tooth and nail with the opposing coach, opposing program, opposing team … and year-round in recruiting,” Bruno said. “But, we still are … a community of hoopsters. There is a bigger picture. We are all in this together.”
Though many in the Chicago basketball community did not know Hankins personally, her absence has quickly brought to greater attention the interpersonal relationships within a team and program.
“Each teammate is a part of your family, so losing one person is tremendously affecting,” Loyola guard Kaitlyn Williams said. “Everything you do is going to be for them. I can’t even imagine going through what they’re going through right now.”
Representatives from both Loyola and DePaul said they have reached out to Northwestern’s team and athletic department. While both teams will continue to focus on their mid-season schedules day-to-day, Achter said that long-term, the conversation around mental health issues needs to progress.
“It’s a topic that is still so taboo within sports,” Achter said. “We accept our athletes to be so tough and fight through things, but at the end of the day sometimes our kids aren’t mentally equipped to handle difficulties. We need to talk about that more.”