For four years, Dominique Hawkins has been a solid role player for Kentucky, giving the Cats a steady hand off the bench and defensive intensity when the team needs it the most. How fitting is it that in his final year, the home state boy is becoming Kentucky’s crutch? This season, Hawkins is averaging 17.6 minutes per game, an eight minute increase from last year, and on Saturday, he followed up a season-high 10 points vs. Tennessee with nine points in a crucial game at Georgia. Dominique is playing the best basketball of his life, and today, Kenny Payne couldn’t stop praising him.
“I can’t begin to tell you how happy we are all with Dominique as coaches,” Payne said. “Dominique Hawkins brings a little something different, more energy at times, defensive toughness at times. Lately, he’s been our best on-ball defender. He deserves this and he shouldn’t take second fiddle to any player on this team because he’s just as good. He’s playing that way.”
Everyone raves about De’Aaron Fox (as they should), but did you know that Hawkins has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team at 4.3? This season, Dom (whom Calipari dubbed “Old Reliable” after the Tennessee win) has 52 assists after combining for 39 assists in his first three seasons. In interviews today, he said that although he’s had big moments during his career at Kentucky, he knows his role this season is his most important.
“It’s definitely been worth it for me,” Dom said of his time at Kentucky. “I’ve definitely seen myself being a part of big situations my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, but I feel like this is the biggest role I’ve taken in my four years.”
Dom isn’t the only senior doing work; Derek Willis and Mychal Mulder are also playing well right now, averaging a combined 16.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. The 16.9 points per game from the seniors is the best in the John Calipari era. How awesome is that for a team whose youth the national media won’t stop fixating on? Payne attributed the seniors’ success to one thing: confidence.
“Same goes for Mychal Mulder, Derek Willis,” Payne said of the seniors’ contributions. “Derek Willis had 12 rebounds in the last game. He can do that anytime he wants. What is preventing him from playing that way? It’s all mental. That’s all it is.”
Everyone likes to talk about Kentucky’s freshmen, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they won’t accomplish anything this season without their seniors.