With his freshman season in the books, Coleman Hawkins struggled to consistently crack the rotation, due in no small part to the presence of All-American Kofi Cockburn and veteran Giorgi Bezhanishvili.
Coach Brad Underwood’s preference for 4 guard lineups this past season, especially down the stretch, didn’t help matters for Hawkins. However, he showed flashes of potential in his limited opportunities, and given the uncertainty with the roster going into next season, there could be more minutes available for the versatile big man.
Let’s look back at his season that was and what might be ahead for him in 2021-22.
On the season, Hawkins averaged only just over 6 minutes per game while logging 1.4 PPG, 0.8 RPG, and 0.4 APG, but he did have a couple of impactful games this past season. Those came in a blowout win over North Carolina A&T, where he finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists, and a win over Penn State, where the freshman recorded 5 points and 3 blocks.
Those moments suggest future potential as a versatile defensive piece, finishing with a block percentage of 5.7%, and competitive rebounder, something the Illini really hung their hat on this past season.
These moments also gave him confidence and helped him find some minutes throughout the regular season. His occasional 3-point basket suggests potential as a reliable stretch 4 or 5 man to compliment a dominant interior presence, like Cockburn or incoming transfer Omar Payne.
A player of Hawkins’ ilk fits well in Underwood’s system and established identity of Illini basketball. The recent loss of Adam Miller to the transfer portal may create opportunities for new lineup combinations next season, and Hawkins may be due for a second-year jump with the greater system familiarity and improved strength and skills training that come with another offseason of work.
If Hawkins can make strides as an effective stretch front court player offensively and consistently impact the defensive end of the floor with shot blocking and deflections, the Illini should be strong performers in the Big Ten once again.