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Dominique Hawkins hopes to carry his state tournament success over to college career


When talking to UK freshman point guard Dominique Hawkins one of the first things you notice is his ever-present smile.

 

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Since earning a scholarship offer from UK following a historic run to the Kentucky state high school championship with Madison Central in March, Hawkins has had plenty to smile about.

 

“I always wanted to play at Kentucky,” Hawkins said in a one-on-one interview with KyForward in September. “In middle school I dreamed that I hit the last shot for Kentucky on the basketball court. For my whole family, I’m pretty sure that they wanted me to come to Kentucky because they are UK fans just like I am. It’s just a blessing that I was able to make it to the team.”

 

The 2013 Mr. Kentucky Basketball, Hawkins averaged 26.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in the Sweet Sixteen to lead Madison Central to the state title. Hawkins entered the tournament with a 19.6 points-per-game average.

 

Perhaps making Hawkins’ performance all the more impressive was the fact he realized in his first game that UK head coach John Calipari was watching from the stands and a scholarship offer could be on the line.

 

Dominique Hawkins. (Photo by Jon Hale)

Dominique Hawkins. (Photo by Jon Hale)

“He just kind of blew me away with his will to win, his temperament on the court, his demeanor in helping his team win a championship,” Calipari said. “You always want to coach guys who understand. By winning a state championship and being down in two games, it shows what a tough mentality (he has).”

 

Calipari’s first-hand look at Hawkins came days after his own team had lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT, capping off a season in which Calipari frequently questioned his team’s will to win and was faced with few options thanks to a shallow bench.

 

Even after Calipari decided to offer Hawkins a scholarship, he asked the Richmond native to keep the offer a secret while he worked to finish out UK’s 2013-14 roster.

 

“I told my girlfriend and my mom,” Hawkins said. “They didn’t tell anybody, which was a good thing. That might be the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. That’s probably the best secret I ever kept.”

 

Hawkins was able to go public with the offer and his decision in April, joining the record-setting UK recruiting class that included an unprecedented six McDonald’s All-Americans.

 

Hawkins and fellow in-state signee Derek Willis don’t bring the same recruiting accolades to UK as their more highly touted classmates, but Hawkins is not ready to concede he will spend most of his time on the bench.

 

“Whatever my role is, I’m going to try to do a great job of playing it up,” he said.

 

One role Hawkins will definitely assume this season is providing a practice opponent to freshmen guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison. The Harrison twins are both listed at 6-foot-6 on the UK roster, and Calipari thinks the 6-foot Hawkins can provide an accurate look at the type of point guard they will face in games.

 

“I definitely think I can help them out, but they definitely are going to be helping me out the most because they’ve got great talent and are two of the best point guards in this nation,” Hawkins said. “I can’t wait to go against them in practice every day.”

 

Hawkins has already impressed the Harrisons.

 

“Dominique is definitely a tough, scrappy guy,” Andrew said. “He makes me work hard on every possession.”

 

“He’s a great athlete,” Aaron said. “He probably is the most underrated person on the team.”

 

Hawkins will likely compete for backup point guard minutes with senior Jarrod Polson. While Aaron Harrison is likely to start at the shooting guard position, he could also spell his brother at point guard when needed.

 

Polson, who arrived at UK as a walk-on but earned a scholarship and carved out a significant role as a junior, sees a little of himself in Hawkins.

 

He can relate to growing up a UK fan and having to fight for minutes versus All-Americans.

 

“He’s probably better than I was my freshman year, but at the same time he’s kind of in the same boat I was,” Polson said. “I’m definitely trying to help him. He’s even kind of quiet like me, so that’s kind of funny. He’s really good, and I’m just trying to tell him to not get discouraged ever.”

 

If Hawkins state tournament performance is any indication, he is already capable of playing well under adverse conditions.

 

Posting that performance with a scholarship on the line makes Hawkins think he’s prepared for what is next.

 

“I feel like that’s what makes me a better player,” he said. “I can get locked on what I need to do, like the goals that I need to do for my team or my players. I feel like I can help the team out with whatever we can do.”

 

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In the weeks leading up to the 2013 UK men’s basketball media day KyForward is previewing the season with a series of stories about the Cats resulting from interviews with players and head coach John Calipari from September. You can see all the stories in the series here.


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