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Illinois Basketball Player Preview: Coleman Hawkins

He’s got the potential, but will he get more minutes?

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins didn’t get a ton of playing time last year behind Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Still, he popped on the screen whether Illinois was playing a mid-major or a power conference opponent. Your eyes immediately go to him because he’s one of the tallest guys on the floor, and he can do pretty much everything.

I certainly don’t want to speak ill of any collegiate players. That would be wrong. However, when some reserves get onto the floor, they don’t really look like they belong there. Coleman does.

2020-21 Season

During the 2020-21 season, Hawkins averaged six minutes per game with 1.4 PPG, 0.8 RPG, and 0.4 APG. If you didn’t watch him play, you wouldn’t think much of him, but if you did, you know how explosive and versatile he can be.

Coleman shined last year in three games against Purdue, Penn State, and at Nebraska bagging 5.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, and 1.7 BPG in those three games. In the Penn State game, he showed his range as a passer and shooter.

Outlook for 2021-22 and Beyond

With the return of Cockburn and transfer Omar Payne, Coleman will still have to fight for playing time this year. However, I believe that he has showed the passing and ball-handling skills necessary to be on the floor at the same time as either Cockburn or Payne. Illinois could also use Hawkins as a stretch-5 if it wants to go small.

During Illinois’ media day, Coleman told the beat: “The pressure on the defense is gonna be crazy. They’re not gonna be able to put a ‘5’ on me because I’ll be able to go by them, or [they’ll be] too slow to close out on me. If they put a ‘3’ on me, he might be 6-4, and I’m 6-10 so I’ll be able to post him up.”

Even a typical college 4 won’t have the height to guard Hawkins, which makes him such an exciting prospect.

Coleman acknowledged later in the interview with reporters that he was maybe being a little arrogant. But that’s okay! He’s a talented basketball player at a great basketball school with a really interesting skillset.

He’s also shown that he’s a standup young man. He’s enthusiastic about his game, and he’s willing to stick around while he might not get a ton of playing time. Also, earlier this year he and Cockburn went to Jim Cotter’s son’s high school football game after the longtime writer passed away.

The one knock on Coleman is that he’s still pretty wiry. He’s up from 200 pounds last year to 215 pounds this year. It’ll take more muscle than that if he wants to be a starting forward/center in the Big Ten, but I think he and Adam Fletcher will be able to get it done.

Coleman clearly has it together off the court.

We can be confident that he’ll figure it out in the gym and on the floor.