Coleman Hawkins returns to Illinois, withdraws from 2023 NBA draft


James Hoeck

Forward Coleman Hawkins exits the court during the last home game of the season on Mar. 2. Hawkins officially made his decision to return to Illinois on Wednesday, after withdrawing from the NBA Draft.

By Adam Rosen, Summer Editor

Forward Coleman Hawkins has officially made his decision on his basketball future. The deadline of May 31 is for players who declared for the NBA draft while maintaining collegiate eligibility at the same time. For the Sacramento native, his Illini career will continue at least one more season, according to a report from NCAA Men’s Basketball insider Jon Rothstein.

Hawkins was the longest-tenured Illini player on the 2022-23 roster who battled their way to a third straight NCAA tournament appearance. The 21-year-old was the third-leading scorer for the Illini with 9.9 points per game while leading the team in rebounds, with 6.3 per game. The two-way forward also showed off his passing abilities, leading the team in assists with 3.0 per game and his defensive prowess stood out with 1.2 blocks per game, second on the team.

Hawkins has been with the Illini since he was recruited out of high school before enrolling in the 2020-21 season. Hawkins played 25 games his freshman year, and from that point on, the 6-foot-10!forward played in all 66 games the next two seasons, starting 47 of those games. Like his former teammates Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, Hawkins chose to test the waters of the NBA draft while maintaining eligibility the first time around. Like those two, Hawkins chose another year at Illinois after the process.

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    2022-23 teammate Terrence Shannon Jr. also declared for the draft while maintaining eligibility; however, he ultimately decided to return to the Illini for another run. Hawkins will once again be entrusted with being a leader on an Illini team that struggled with consistency last year but will look to provide a more successful season with a roster that has gone through significant turnover via the transfer portal and high school recruits.

    Hawkins became a fan favorite with the Illini for the leadership and energy he provided on the court during the 2022-23 season, including a game against Syracuse on Nov. 29. Against the Orange, the Illini forward recorded the fifth triple-double in program history, becoming the fourth player in program history to accomplish the mark (Dosunmu recorded two during the 2020-21 season.) Hawkins accomplished the mark with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

    Hawkins’ decision to stay ultimately gives the Illini a much-needed answer to their questions about the starting lineup for next season as head coach Brad Underwood enters a critical season. The Illini still have time to add from the transfer portal as well, but it remains to be seen what else Underwood has in store for a program that is striving for more than just a turn in the Big Dance.