Hawkins makes every possession count for UK, named to All-SEC Tournament team

Senior guard Dominique Hawkins smiles with the SEC Championship Trophy after the championship game of the SEC Tournament against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday, March 12, 2017 in Nashville, Ky. Kentucky won the game 82-65 to win their third-straight SEC Championship.

Anthony Crawford

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There’s been a change in roles that has occurred these last few weeks for UK men’s basketball as senior Dominique Hawkins has developed into the team’s sparkplug off the bench and more recently an All-SEC Tournament team member following the Cats 82-65 win over Arkansas in the finals. 

At the start of his career, it was Hawkins who had to practice patience waiting to be given an opportunity to produce for the team. Now as his senior season approaches its conclusion, it’s UK that has to bind its time waiting to finally insert him off the bench and change the complexity of the game.

“And really late in the season, it’s almost like you’re waiting to put him in the game, like something has to happen so you can hurry up and put him in. His energy level, his aggressiveness,” John Calipari said of his senior guard after the win over the Razorbacks. 

The play off the bench for Hawkins during this three-game SEC title run is something that can’t be described by numbers.

Like in the championship game against Arkansas, his four-steal tally in the box score only go so far in describing the affect that every takeaway meant to UK in its eventual win over the Razorbacks. 

The steals resulted from the energy and pressure that Hawkins brought off the bench for UK, something that the team now depends on to help cut into runs or pull-away from opponents.

“We need his energy coming off the bench,” Isaiah Briscoe said of Hawkins. “That’s big for us. Picking up full-court, he disrupts the ball-handlers. You can’t ask him to do better than that.”

When looking for where exactly the energy and relentlessness comes from in Hawkins’ full-court pressing, you can simply be directed to the type of leadership he has provided throughout his career.

Never worried that his chance might not come, Hawkins only focused on how he could help the team win in the minutes he played rather than worry about how much playing time he was going to receive.

“(Hawkins) understands his role a lot more,” fellow senior Derek Willis said. “He’s thinking more about possessions rather than just the time that he’s in the game. So it’s like every play he’s trying to push it to the max.”

Playing with that type of mentality has led to Hawkins’ play being crucial for UK whether he’s producing stats or not. In UK’s semifinal win over Alabama, Hawkins attempted only three shots but was still a team-high +16 in his 29 minutes of play. Against Arkansas Hawkins was more aggressive in shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-5 from three for a career-high 14 points, but his impact for UK was still the same. 

“Coach has always told me to be patient and that my time is coming. And I trust him,” Hawkins said. “…I just want to show my teammates that each possession counts. If they see me working hard on defense, they’re going to work hard that possession. And offensively, don’t just throw up a shot. Let’s get a great shot and execute the plays we run.”