Throughout the summer, NAU Athletics will take a look back and catch up with former Lumberjack women's basketball players in a Where Are They Now series.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – It is no question that Julie Hanks left her mark at NAU during her playing career. An NAU Hall of Famer, Hanks left as the program's all-time leading scorer in 1986 and is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished players in school history. Yet as exceptional as she was on the hardwood in the mid-1980s, Hanks remains as dedicated as ever to the game nearly 30 years later.
"I'm a student of the game," said Hanks, currently the head women's basketball coach at Irvine Valley College. "I love X's and O's. Coach (Dave) Brown was a student of the game and I'm the same way. I can watch something and pick it up easily. It took me a while to get basketball out of my system after playing and now that I have, I'm enjoying coaching."
Hanks has spent the last 16 years at Irvine Valley in charge of the Lasers program where she also teaches courses on women's health issues. Prior to arriving at Irvine Valley, Hanks was the head coach at Phoenix College for two years and later served as the head coach at Grand Canyon University for four years.
Since taking over at IVC, Hanks has enjoyed a widely successful tenure compiling a record of 279-182 and leading the Lasers to 12 Southern California Regional playoff appearances. In her very first season, she earned conference Coach of the Year honors after leading the Lasers to an Orange Empire Conference title with their best record of 28-7 while reaching the state tournament for the first time. Most of all, as a product of a junior college prior to coming to NAU, she understands and appreciates the opportunity to coach at the JUCO level.
"I went to Yavapai before going to Northern Arizona so it's been good for me to help these kids," Hanks said. "Some kids have to go through a community college to get to Division I and I want to be able to help them when they don't think they can do it. That's what has been beneficial for me to help kids."
A big reason for Hanks' success on the bench as a coach could directly be attributed to her time playing for Dave Brown, an NAU Hall of Famer himself, during her Lumberjack career.
"I wouldn't have been the basketball player I was without him," Hanks said. "He made me learn the right way and I didn't get away with anything. Not only that, but he helped me reach my potential in the classroom. Being a point guard on the court made me a coach on the floor while I played. He was a special coach and I needed that in my life and it's helped the kids that I coach now.
Hanks was inducted into the NAU Hall of Fame in 1994 after a stellar Lumberjack career. She became the third Hall of Famer in program history – and one of six currently – and rightfully so. At the time of her induction, Hanks possessed school records for field goals in a season (182 in 1984-85) and field goals made in a career (493). Currently fifth all-time in career points scored with 1,165, Hanks is one of 14 players in the 1,000 point club.
Her name can be found throughout the school record book as in addition to points scored, Hanks ranks in the top-10 in scoring average, field goals made, field goals attempted, rebounds and rebound average. At the conclusion of her career, she also held positions in the top-10 in career assists and field goal percentage.
During her final season, she was named NAU's Female Athlete of the Year and played a vital role in the Lumberjacks enjoying their best season to date. NAU concluded the 1985-86 season with a 17-8 record, setting the program record at the time for wins in a season while posting the first winning campaign in program history.
"I loved my time at NAU," Hanks said. "My license plate says NAU Alumni and it was a brand new experience for me. I got to play a lot of minutes and I liked the atmosphere and the school. I liked Coach Brown, my teammates and my teachers. I took pride in working on my game and playing basketball year round and I'm glad I was able to do that for NAU."
After leaving NAU, Hanks earned her master's degree from Azusa Pacific University. Following her coaching stints at Phoenix College and GCU, she proceeded to earn a tryout with the Phoenix Mercury in 1997 and was named an alternate during their inaugural season despite an impressive performance. Hanks then continued her professional basketball endeavors in Switzerland and gave it one more shot in the WNBA with the Detroit Shock before turning to Irvine Valley where she has been since.
A pro career may not have worked out, but a return to her home state of California has been much more than a consolation prize. With 16 years under her belt and counting, Hanks is molding the lives of her players much like Brown did for her at NAU – the place where it all started.
"I wouldn't trade my time at NAU for anything," Hanks said. "I had a great time and if I had to do everything all over again, I'd do the exact same thing. I'm always looking to send my players up to NAU because I think it's a great experience. Now that Sue Darling is there, I think good things are coming that way."