Josh Hagins goes after the ball during a game against the Delaware 87s earlier this season.

In the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament, the Little Rock Trojans shattered plenty of office brackets when they upset fifth-seeded Purdue in the first round.

Little Rock guard Josh Hagins played an influential role in the game, leading the Trojans to an epic comeback with only three minutes remaining.

But it was the shot — an improbable 3-point heave with four seconds remaining — that cemented Hagins’ name in Trojans sports history.

With equal parts hard work, innate skill and a little luck, Hagins’ shot at the horn fell, forcing Purdue to overtime. The Trojans pulled out the win in double-OT, and it was Hagins again scoring the game sealing points. He was the first player in NCAA tournament history to record at least 30 points, five rebounds, five assists, and five steals in one game. When opportunity knocked that afternoon in Denver, Hagins took advantage. It’s something he is used to doing.

Hagins wasn’t widely recruited out of Airline High School. The Bossier City, Louisiana native came from a military background. Born in Washington, D.C., Hagins, a guard with a self-described “unconventional” style of play, was a 2-star prospect according to recruiting website He attracted interest from Louisiana schools like Tulane, Southeastern Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, and even fellow Sun Belt competitor Louisiana-Lafayette. But one school, the University oif Arkansas at Little Rock, in a city where Josh lived as a child, caught his eye.


“They gave me an opportunity,” he said. “I’ll never forget that.”

After committing to Arkansas-Little Rock, Hagins told The Forum, the school’s student newspaper, that his focus was to set a new standard for Little Rock basketball and leave the program better than when he first arrived.

He credits former Little Rock head coach Steve Shields with teaching him to deal with adversity, something that came in handy late in that big NCAA tournament win.

In 2015, Chris Beard took over as head coach. During Beard’s one season on the job, the Trojans improved from a 13-18 team to one with a 30-5 record. The Tojans also won the Sun Belt championship to earn the conference’s automatic NCAA berth.

“Josh obviously did a lot for our program,” current head coach Wes Flanigan said.

Flanagan was an assistant under Beard.


“We had a heck of a run last year, and it all started with him,” Beard said. “He was a playmaker; a guy that made big shots for us, and he stepped into a leadership role as a senior. I think he has a long professional career ahead of him. I wish him the best. He’s a great kid and someone who represented Little Rock the right way, on and off the court.”

Even after finishing his college career in the national spotlight, Hagins’ options as a basketball player were limited. In a sport where more and more players are “one and done,” Josh was a senior at a school in a non-power conference that hadn’t seen much of a spotlight. After leaving Little Rock, Hagins prepared for the NBA draft, hoping to catch a team’s eye.

But with the NBA draft only two rounds and 60 picks deep, his odds of receiving a call were slim.

When no call came, he was disappointed, but not discouraged.

Then, the Sacramento Kings invited Hagins to take part in the NBA Summer League and supplied what he described as a “fun, educational, and opportunistic experience.”

After four games with the Kings, during which he played 48 minutes and shot 4-for-8 from the field — including a 75 percent 3-point percentage — he awaited another opportunity.


A few months later, opportunity knocked again: Hagins received an offer to play basketball in Europe.

Bosna Royal, a team based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, signed Josh in mid-October. His reason for accepting that chance was simple: He’d not only make some money, but he’d also get a chance to work on his game with a professional team.

His time in Bosnia was different than anything he’d ever experienced.

“Basketball fans treat the game much like European soccer fans,” he said.

After a couple of months in Europe, Hagins returned home, hoping to land another opportunity.

Josh said waiting for a call was tough, and it took longer than he had expected.


Finally, the Maine Red Claws came calling.

After signing on Jan. 26, Hagins made his Red Claws debut a week later. Through his first three games with Maine, he scored nine points, all in a Feb. 9 game against the Northern Arizona Suns.

Hagins has proven he has a knack for playing well when it counts the most. On Feb. 10, Hagins and the Red Claws took on the Westchester Knicks in a nationally-televised game on ESPN. In his first game as a starter, Josh scored 17 points and recorded six assists and six rebounds, helping to lead the Red Claws to a win in a spotlight game.

He set a career high for points (18) and rebounds (7) and assists (7) on Feb. 14 against Delaware, as well.

All Hagins wants is continued opportunity.

The former two-star recruit from Airline High School found one at Little Rock. He earned another in the NBA Summer League, and another in Europe.


Hagins is hoping the NBA D-League will help pave the road to future success. For all the opportunities he has earned, perhaps the most important is yet to come.

Hagins hopes to continue to improve in Maine and return to the summer league with an eye on joining an NBA training camp this summer.

Wherever his path leads, when opportunity again knocks, Hagins will most certainly answer.

Josh Hagins watches for the ball during a game against the Delaware 87s earlier this season.Josh Hagins controls the ball during a game against the Delaware 87s earlier this season.

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