This season, senior Dominique Hawkins is averaging 3.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, and 1.9 APG. For his career, he’s averaging just two points, one rebound, and just under one assist per game.
His shooting percentage doesn’t jump off the page, he never racked up a bunch of steals or blocks, and he was never Steve Nash or Jason Kidd in the passing department.
On the boxscore, he’s a career bench warmer making little “real” contribution to the team.
Those that watch him, however, realize Hawkins was far more than that in his time at Kentucky.
After taking home Kentucky Mr. Basketball honors back in 2013 and leading Madison Central to a state title, Calipari offered a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-nothin’ guard out of Richmond, KY. He averaged 20.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a senior, taking home Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the process.
Despite receiving offers from Purdue, South Carolina, Western Kentucky, Morehead State, and others, he chose his dream school. The other programs offered more playing time and the opportunity for a star role, but competing against future NBA stars and helping lead his home school to Final Fours won out in the end.
At his press conference to announce his commitment, he told reporters he was shocked he got an offer from UK, but knew he would prove to Calipari he deserved it when he got to Lexington.
“Kentucky does nothing but get great players,” he said. “I know I’m a good player, but I wasn’t expecting (an offer.) I guess I am a great player now that Kentucky offered me.”
When asked what Kentucky was getting from Hawkins as a player, he gave fans just a glimpse of what was to come.
“They’re getting a tough-nosed point guard that’s going to be a leader. They’re getting a guy that gets his team involved, a guy that’s tough on defense and puts pressure on the ball.”
Hawkins understood he wouldn’t be lighting up the scoreboard from day one or starting over any of UK’s McDonald’s All-Americans right away. But he was going to give it his best shot.
When he first arrived on campus, reporters were met with a competitive Kentucky boy with a bright grin stretching from ear to ear. That smile soon became famous throughout the BBN.
KSTV’s TJ Beisner made it a tradition to test Hawkins on how long he could go without smiling.
He always failed miserably.
I’m going to miss a lot about Dominique Hawkins.
But mostly I’ll miss giving him the smile test every year. pic.twitter.com/vbvQCy5MjI
– TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) February 28, 2017
He embraced his role on the team, and became a fan favorite from the get-go.
In his first year, Hawkins mostly played in garbage time at the end of blowout victories. He quickly became a “SHOOT!” candidate for fans in the game’s closing minutes.
He showed some spurts of potential, but he was just seen as a promising prospect, nothing more.
In Kentucky’s Sweet 16 matchup against UofL in 2014, however, he was thrown in the game to guard Louisville star Russ Smith. Derek Willis later told the media Hawkins told Smith he would lock him up and “steal his girlfriend.”
He came through on his word, as Smith struggled to score for the remainder of the game, and Kentucky knocked off the Cards to move on to the Elite Eight. (No word on the girlfriend part, though.)
In the Elite Eight, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas was scoring at will, and it seemed Kentucky’s road to the Final Four would be cut short unless the Wildcats could make some defensive stops. Calipari threw Hawkins in the game, and the script was flipped. Like Russ-diculous, Stauskas struggled to get shots off, paving the way for Aaron Harrison’s last-second dagger to send the team to the Final Four.
Without Hawkins, Harrison isn’t even in position to win the game.
Against Wisconsin, rewind and repeat. When the team needed a defensive stop, Hawkins provided that. The former three-star guard rose to the occasion, holding the top scorers from Louisville, Michigan, and Wisconsin to a combined 4/13 from the field in his time on the floor.
He rarely scored, but he didn’t need to. He did just about everything else it took to will his team to victory. That trend continued throughout his career.
Fast forward to his senior year, and Hawkins has become the leader he promised he would be the day he committed to Coach Cal and the Wildcats.
Diving for loose balls, grabbing clutch rebounds, or knocking down free throws in crunch time. Whatever it took to win, Hawkins put his heart on the line and put forth his best effort to make it happen.
He’s a winner.
In UK victories this season, Hawkins is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game, 23 MPG in UK’s last eight victories. In losses, he is averaging 17 minutes per game.
With De’Aaron Fox out on Saturday against Florida with first place in the SEC on the line, Hawkins played 37 minutes and didn’t skip a beat. Before the game, fans felt a loss was in the cards with the star point guard sidelined, but the senior leader stepped up. Again.
After coming in off the bench, he never came out again.
Even Coach Cal realizes Hawkins is performing with the best of them right now, and he’s earned every minute of playing time he has received.
“Right now, he is playing as well as any of our guards,” said Calipari.
From the debut of his contagious smile at the first UK Media Day, to his lockdown defensive performances in Kentucky’s historic NCAA Tournament run in 2014, through Saturday’s big performance against Florida, Dominique Hawkins has done everything asked of him and more as a Wildcat.
His recent success is just icing on the cake of a storied career of a Kentucky boy that played for the name on the front of his jersey, not the back.
“I just want people to remember me as a kid from Kentucky who was willing to come play his heart out,” said Hawkins.
He’s done just that.
– KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) February 28, 2017
It’s been fun, Dom.