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 showcases versatility in first scrimmage at NBA Combine

Sahil Mittal
Illinois graduate Coleman Hawkins dribbles around the perimeter in his first scrimmage at the 2024 NBA Combine in Chicago.

On day two of the NBA Combine in Chicago, players took part in two scrimmages at Wintrust Arena, where former Illini Coleman Hawkins suited up in the first contest. Hawkins was playing for Team Forehan-Kelly, head coached by Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Ryan Forehan-Kelly. Legendary women’s basketball player Cynthia Cooper, a four-time WNBA MVP, was an assistant coach for the scrimmage. They faced off against Team St. Andrews, featuring USC guard Bronny James.

Hawkins started the game on the bench, and he stayed there for the entire 10 minutes of the first quarter. He then entered the game at the beginning of the second quarter where he immediately showcased his ability to act as a point-forward, grabbing a strong defensive rebound and pushing the ball up the court in transition. 

The 6-foot-10 forward also showcased his off-ball movement, setting strong screens for his teammates that opened up multiple potential pick-and-pop opportunities for Hawkins, despite the ball not going his way much in his first stretch of playing time. Hawkins’ shot two threes in the second quarter, one from the top of the key, and the other from the corner, but neither shot fell. Hawkins did get on the board before halftime though, scoring an easy layup off of a baseline out of bounds play.

Even though the shots didn’t fall for Hawkins in the second quarter, he made up for it in other ways, starting with his energy on defense. Hawkins was noticeably one of the loudest players in the gym, calling out defensive movements and clearly supporting his teammates. He also shifted well to help cover any driving opponents.

“I wish we could play more,” Hawkins said after the game. “It’s kind of not very structured in terms of the playing. I mean they try to give you sets, they try to give you action to run, but at the end of the day, we don’t know everyone’s personnel and we’re just out there running around trying to showcase ourselves.”

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The third quarter was when Hawkins began to heat up on the offensive end. He started by directing a well-placed backdoor pass to Colorado’s KJ Simpson, despite Simpson not finishing. Hawkins made up for that only a few minutes later, recording his sole assist of the night with a successful pass to Simpson.

With just over two minutes to go Hawkins executed a textbook give-and-go on the wing, to score his second bucket. Shortly after, the recent Illinois graduate knocked down a wide-open three from the corner to finish the game with seven points. Illinois head coach Brad Underwood was in attendance to watch Hawkins, and he was very complimentary of his former player.

“I thought he was terrific,” Underwood said. “Coleman did what he does. He’s a great ball mover, facilitator. He spaces in the corners, elite shooter and then he can guard multiple spots. So I think that’s something every NBA team likes.”

Hawkins for the most part agreed with Underwood, but still recognized there were things he could improve on.

“I thought today I did a decent job of playing in the time that I got,” Hawkins said. “I think I just need to catch and shoot a little bit more and maybe create for my own a little bit while still being unselfish.”

Hawkins will play one more organized scrimmage at the Combine on Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. Despite the noise surrounding his potential return to college, Hawkins has made it clear that he is 100% focused on staying in the NBA Draft this year and putting his full effort into earning a guaranteed deal, as he shared following his Combine workout on Monday. His chapter at Illinois is more than likely over, barring unforeseen circumstances, but Hawkins will always hold a special place in his heart for the Illini faithful as he pursues the next level.

“The real ones know what it was like,” Hawkins said. “Coming in, I was a freshman who was never talked about, and now I’m leaving as a senior who people don’t want to see leave. So, it just means a lot to have that support and love. You guys are very special.”



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Sahil Mittal
Sahil Mittal, Senior Sports Reporter
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