The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Coleman Hawkins shines in final scrimmage at Combine, discusses next steps before draft withdrawal deadline

Sahil Mittal
Illinois graduate Coleman Hawkins prepares to drive to the basket during a scrimmage at the NBA Combine on May 15 in Chicago.

At the NBA Combine, Coleman Hawkins took part in his second scrimmage of the week on Wednesday, playing for Team Forehan-Kelly. After not playing in the first quarter on Tuesday, Hawkins entered the starting lineup for Wednesday’s match-up and made the most of the opportunity in his 23 minutes on the court.

Hawkins immediately started to produce on the offensive end, getting an assist to Jamir Watkins for the team’s first points. The recent Illinois graduate followed that up with a play that showcased his maturity and decision-making. After failing to find a good shot on a drive, Hawkins made the decision to slow down and reset the play before driving to the basket again, which resulted in a foul and two made free throws. Hawkins scored his first three-pointer of the game soon after, starting a hot-shooting day for the Brad Underwood described “elite shooter.”

Hawkins prides himself on his playmaking, and there was plenty of that on display for the big man at Wintrust Arena as well. Hawkins snapped a pass to teammate Nikola Djurisic in the corner, where the guard knocked down a three. The swish of the ball through the net was followed with an exclamation of Boom!” by a smiling Hawkins as he ran back on defense. Only moments later, Hawkins secured a strong defensive rebound and turned it into a very quick transition pass up the court, helping Team Forehan-Kelly put another pair of points on the board. 

I felt good today, Hawkins said after the game. Kind of talked with my coaches a little bit that were coaching us yesterday, and I think they saw glimpses of what I can do. We talked a lot, and they wanted to see me kind of handle the ball a little bit more. So I just felt real comfortable out there today. Wasn’t worried about anything, just went out and played.

Hawkins checked out of the game in the first quarter with about four minutes left to go, but not before driving from the left wing and laying the ball in for two more points. He returned to the court for the start of the second quarter and immediately hit a step-back three-pointer right in front of his bench. Hawkins’ only miss of the contest came moments later on a top of the key three that rolled in and out. He made up for the miss later in the quarter, coming off a screen to get an open shot at the same spot, this time nailing the attempt from long range, his third of the game.

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Despite only scoring one more time off of another drive to the hoop, Hawkins’ off-ball movement and intangibles continued to shine throughout the rest of the scrimmage. He continued to be one of the most vocal players on the floor and acted as his team’s point guard on many occasions, directing movement and offensive sets.

Whenever he was double-teamed on the perimeter, the big man showed his improving handle, taking care of the ball well enough to pass strongly out of high-pressure situations. Team Forehan-Kelly head coach Ryan Forehan-Kelly, an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets, could not say enough good things about Hawkins’ versatility in the short time he spent coaching him.

I love his versatility,Forehan-Kelly said. That really contributes to winning because you can use him in several different ways.

On the other end of the floor, Hawkins showed again that he rotates well and plays strong help defense. His on-ball defense against bigger guys, such as seven-foot center Quinten Post, was solid, and he was able to hold his own.

I feel like when I’m completely healthy, I’m an elite defender for sure,Hawkins said. We talked about our rotations before the game, so I was just trying to emphasize being there early for any guys who got an available lane. Try to be there early in those shifts. So yeah, I definitely took pride in that today.

However, Hawkins did struggle slightly when guarding smaller, shiftier guards, getting beat to the rim on multiple drives, especially later in the game.

All college guys got to work on their defense to get to the league, Forehan-Kelly said. Guys are bigger, faster, stronger. It’s different types of shifts on the defense. You bring up a good point. On-ball he was solid against bigger dudes, but can you switch onto a small guy and keep him in front? (That) is going to be his challenge. Off-ball, I think he did a great job, just from yesterday to today, in being in the right positioning with his shifts and being vocal and communicating what the defense looks like behind the guy that’s guarding the ball.

Overall, Hawkins finished the game with a game-high 17 points, shooting 6-7 from the field, including 3-4 from long range. He also tacked on three assists and grabbed five rebounds, finishing with a +/- of +27. Now, Hawkins will turn his head toward individually preparing for the draft and meeting with teams who have a high interest in him.

I got some workouts coming up in the future, before that deadline, trying to squeeze some in with some teams that are really interested, Hawkins said in reference to the NCAA’s May 29 deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school. In the meantime, I’ll be working out here in Chicago with trainers, trying to stay sharp and everything, stay in shape. We got a pro day on Friday.

Hawkins still has one year of college eligibility left, and he has entered his name in the transfer portal. If he does not receive the feedback he wants from NBA teams about his draft status or the level of contract he would receive, Hawkins could return to school. However, with him repeatedly saying he is 100% committed to staying in the draft, and after a very strong performance on Wednesday, the chance of him going back to college seems slimmer by the day. In the NBA world, though, a lot can change in short periods of time, so Hawkins isn’t making any commitments until he has to in about two weeks.

After the Combine, just do some workouts before that deadline, and I’ll make my decision after that, Hawkins said.



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Sahil Mittal
Sahil Mittal, Senior Sports Reporter
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