WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — On the heels of making the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Hartford men’s basketball team was honored in front of West Hartford Town Hall Wednesday afternoon. Team members and coaches joined Hawks’ fans, supporters and student-athletes, as April 28 was proclaimed “Hartford Men’s Basketball Day” by town officials.
The celebration included proclamations from West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and speeches from State Representative Jillian Gilchrest and Speaker of the House Matt Ritter.
“This is a wonderful celebration of a group of students that worked so hard,” Cantor said before proclaiming April 28, 2021 “Hartford Men’s Basketball Day” in West Hartford.
“You guys are amazing scholar-athletes,” Lamont added when addressing the team. “I would like to say how much pride you gave the state of Connecticut. We were all cheering you on!”
The fourth-seeded Hawks defeated UMass Lowell in West Hartford to win their first-ever America East Championship last month. Earning the league’s automatic berth to the Big Dance, Hartford made its NCAA Tournament debut against top-seeded Baylor — the eventual National Champion — in the First Round.
Interim Director of Athletics Maria Feeley also spoke during Wednesday’s ceremony. She noted the outstanding academic standing of the Hawks, as well as their prominent presence within the local community. In addition, Feeley recognized team members for their outstanding individual contributions, including graduate student Traci Carter (Second Team All-Conference; two-time All-Defensive Team; ninth in the nation in steals), senior Austin Williams (Third Team All-Conference; Most Outstanding Player) and junior Hunter Marks (two-time All-Academic Team).
During the celebration, head coach John Gallagher presented Cantor, Lamont and Ritter with commemorative Hartford Hawks men’s basketball jerseys. Gallagher also paid homage to late Hartford men’s basketball coach Jack Phelan, a West Hartford native who was instrumental in piloting the Hawks during their transition from Division II to Division I for the 1984-85 season.
“I love this team,” said Gallagher. “I love the student body. I love the school. I truly love this place. I thank you all for your support!”
Gallagher continued by thanking the friends, family and supporters who have become important members of the “neighborhood.” Prompted by Lamont and Gallagher, the celebration concluded with the crowd chanting “Neighborhood!” in front of the Town Hall.
Under Gallagher, Hartford posted the program’s best winning percentage (.625) in its 37-year Division I history. The Hawks went 15-9 overall in 2020-21, including an 8-6 mark in America East play.