Cabrera adds three to Northwestern State men’s basketball coaching staf

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NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State men’s basketball coaching staff is beginning to take shape.

First-year head coach Rick Cabrera announced the addition of assistant coaches TJ Cox and Hayden Harkins as well as director of player development Luke Darst on Wednesday.

“During the process of assembling my staff, I wanted to hire people who are high character, hard-working and very connected in recruiting,” Cabrera said. “I feel that I’ve accomplished that with these hires. Most importantly, the on-floor coaching talent and ability to relate to our student-athletes was at the top of my list. I’m looking forward to working and winning a lot of games with this group of coaches.”

Cox joins the Demon staff after engineering a 16-win improvement in his lone season as Ranger College’s head coach.

Cox’ Rangers won the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference’s outright regular-season crown and earned the No. 11 seed in the NJCAA Tournament. The Rangers reached the Sweet 16 of the national tournament helping Cox earn Region V North and NTJCAC Coach of the Year honors.

At Ranger, Cox recruited and developed four all-conference selections, including three first-teamers, the conference defensive player of the year and the Region V Player of the Year.

A veteran junior college assistant coach, Cox spent the 2021-22 season at Dodge City Community College, helping the Conquistadors establish a school record with 30 wins, an improvement of 15 wins from the previous season, and reach the Elite Eight in the NJCAA Tournament. That season, Dodge City went 8-0 against Top 25 teams and won the school’s first Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference and Region VI championships since 1982.

Cox spent a year at Tallahassee Community College (2020-21) where he was responsible for skill development of the Panhandle Conference Player of the Year, two all-state players and four all-conference selections.

As the lead assistant at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, Cox helped the Vols post an 81-36 record in three seasons as the lead assistant coach.

Cox was the lead recruiter for three NJCAA All-Americans, three region player of the year selections, eight all-conference picks, double-figure Division I signees and the 2020 NJCAA National Player of the Year, Jay Scrubb. Scrubb became the first junior college player selected in the NBA Draft since 2004 when the Los Angeles Clippers pegged him in the second round of the 2020 draft.

A graduate of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, Cox holds a master’s degree in sports administration from Arkansas State, where he served as a graduate assistant before holding the same position at North Texas.

“TJ comes highly recommended from top-level coaches in the business,” Cabrera said. “I’ve known TJ since his first year as an assistant coach at John A Logan. What stood out to me the most about TJ was his passion to be successful. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious with staff and players. TJ has an elite ability to recruit and coach the game of basketball. I’m looking forward to working with him and doing great things here at NSU.”

Harkins comes to Northwestern State after spending the 2022-23 season on Cabrera’s staff at Tallahassee Community College where he helped the Eagles reach the Final Four in the NJCAA Tournament.

During his two years at Tallahassee, Harkins helped lead the Eagles to a 52-16 record and the 2023 Panhandle Conference championship. Under Harkins’ direction, three players earned All-Panhandle Conference acclaim. Additionally, Harkins oversaw the team’s academic progress and its social media accounts.

A two-year team captain at Elmira College, Harkins spent the 2020-21 season as an assistant coach at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Mississippi. Prior to that, he was a graduate assistant at Arkansas State where he earned his master’s degree in sports administration. He is a 2018 graduate of Elmira, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“Hayden and I worked together my first year at Arkansas State when he was a graduate assistant,” Cabrera said. “Hayden comes on board with me from Tallahassee Community College where he was a major part in us having great success in the last two seasons. During my time working with him, he has displayed a great ability to recruit high-level players as well as coach the game of basketball. His work ethic is unmatched, which is one of the main reasons he has joined me here at NSU. Hayden’s a future star in this business, and I’m excited he gets to continue it with me here at NSU.”

A former player at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Darst joins Cabrera’s staff after spending the past four seasons as a student manager and a graduate assistant at Arkansas State.

With the Red Wolves, Darst was involved with numerous facets of the program, including giving individual instruction to players, working alongside ASU’s video coordinator with scouting and coordinating summer camps.

Darst earned his undergraduate degree from Arkansas State in physical education and is pursuing a master’s in sports administration from ASU.

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