The East Central University men’s basketball team has hired Ja Havens as its sixth head coach. Havens will be coming back to his roots in the Oklahoma basketball community after spending his playing career at St. Gregory’s and Northeastern State and the first seven of his 15 years in collegiate coaching in Oklahoma.
“I have followed the promising career of Ja Havens for quite some time now,” said ECU Director of Athletics Dr. Jeff Williams. “He has built a solid reputation as a great recruiter and has proven ability to develop basketball talent. His role in leading Drury to the (NCAA Division II) National Championship on April 7 serves as evidence of his coaching and leadership abilities. Ja was raised in the home of a Hall of Fame coach and his professional resume reveals that Ja has been a student of the game his entire life. We are excited about the enthusiasm he will bring to Tiger basketball.”
“We are so excited to have Coach Havens join our team,” said ECU President John Hargrave. “We think Ja and his family are going to be a great addition to the ECU family and Ada community.”
“Becoming a head coach at the collegiate level has long been a goal of mine,” said Ja Haves. “And I have patiently waited for the ‘perfect’ opportunity. I am confident that this position at East Central University is that opportunity. It is an honor to walk in coach (Jerry) Anderson and coach (Wayne) Cobb’s footsteps. They were both household names, as my father played for coach Anderson and I had the opportunity to play against coach Cobb. I have tremendous respect for the Tiger program.”
Havens has had a hand in every aspect of college basketball coaching; including scouting, recruitment, on-floor coaching, academic progress, scheduling, public relations and community service. Academic accountability and community service are key areas for the student-athletes that Havens coaches.
“I believe that my responsibility does not end at demanding academic accountability and teaching sports development,” said Havens. “It is also my responsibility to help develop a sense of perspective within our student-athletes. I believe the best way to do this is by encouraging our student-athletes to participate in community service events to help those who are less fortunate, as well as interacting with members of the local community.”
Havens has strong family roots in central Oklahoma, as his family still lives in Shawnee, Okla. The Oklahoma native has built strong ties in the Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri coaching communities.
Havens was exposed to basketball at a very early age, as his father is legendary coach Jerry Havens. Jerry has been a coach for 38 years and has been inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Havens was born in Stillwater, Okla., and grew up in Dallas, Texas, so Texoma has been a key recruiting area throughout his coaching career.
Havens has spent the last eight years as the assistant basketball coach at Drury University, which claimed the 2013 NCAA DII National Championship. He helped the Panthers to five Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division Championships and two tournament championships. Drury had great success in the NCAA, advancing to the NCAA DII Tournament six times and going 173-68 in the eight years he spent with the program.
Before moving to Drury, he spent four seasons at the University of Tulsa as an assistant coach and director of basketball operations. The Golden Hurricane earned two Western Athletic Conference championships during his tenure and advanced to the second round of the NCAA DI Tournament.
From 1999-2001, Havens was a graduate assistant coach at Northeastern State, when the RiverHawks claimed two straight Lone Star Conference North Division Championships and advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA DII tournament.
Havens started his coaching career at St. Gregory’s in 1998 and helped the team improve from a six-win season in 1997-98 to 14 in 1998-99.
Before starting his coaching career, Havens played for two seasons at Northeastern State (1996-98) and was named to the LSC All-Academic Team. He spent his first two seasons at St. Gregory’s (1994-96) and was named a NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-American.
“I am the product of a coaching family and I will pass on the dedication, hard work and values that were instilled in me throughout my life,” Havens said. “The leadership qualities that I learned from my coaches and mentors have prepared me well to guide a successful college program.”
Havens’ wife Angie is an occupational therapist, who also played at St. Gregory’s and Northeastern State. Both had the opportunity during their collegiate careers to play in the Kerr Activities Center. The couple has three sons: Trey (11), Trent (5) and Ty (10 months) and one daughter; Tatum (9).