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November 18, 2013
Hawkins earning more playing time with defense
It was a blocked shot that would have made Anthony Davis proud. And it was by an unusual suspect.
Freshman Dominique Hawkins' game against Robert Morris on Sunday was summarized in that single play with 3:09 left to go in Kentucky's rout. Hawkins slowly stalked the Colonials' Britton Lee, coming out of nowhere to spike the ball into the hardwood.
Plays like that, and several more Sunday night, are reasons why John Calipari is going to play Hawkins.
"You know, I'm not afraid to go to him," Calipari said. "I'm just not. I think he's a pretty good player. He's good for our team."
It's Calipari's shtick to play freshmen, but Hawkins wasn't one of the heralded newcomers that made up the record-breaking 2013 recruiting class at Kentucky, which hosts Texas Arlington on Tuesday.
Didn't matter. Hawkins played a career-high 18 minutes against Robert Morris Sunday, two more minutes than in his first three games combined.
His stat line -- four points, three assists, one rebound, one steal and of course his infamous block -- won't blow people away.
But what doesn't show up on in the books is his in-your-face defense, the thing that's getting him on the floor.
"He pushes so hard that you saw when he went in the game how he guarded the ball," Calipari said. "He just goes up and he adds energy to the game."
Hawkins said energy is contagious and he's happy to spread it to his teammates.
"I love it," Hawkins said. "Cal puts me in there to turn up on defense, give it more energy. I know my role and what I'm supposed to do is put pressure on the ball and get our defense going. I'm doing great at it, I feel like. Coach has been telling me to continue with the hard work I'm doing."
Aaron Harrison called him a pit-bull type of defender, and while there's an in-house competition between the Harrison twins and Hawkins for playing time, Hawkins knows his role.
He's the underdog of the three, and he said he's OK with that. His unselfish attitude leaves him thrilled with the opportunity to learn from the five-star guards.
"I'm really looking up to (Andrew Harrison)," Hawkins said. "He probably brings a lot more than I do. But I'm watching him in practice and it's helping me. Basically I can say he's one of my role models right now. I know that if I need to play point I have to watch what he's doing and do what he does."
Hawkins has already shown he can be not only an attentive student, but also that "Hawk D" brings something different to the table than Andrew Harrison.
"If people want to call me Hawk D, I'm fine with that," Hawkins said. "I guess that's giving me a compliment on my defense, and I love compliments on my defense, because I love defense better than offense. There's not a lot of guys that say that, but I take pride in my defense."
And Calipari is willing to bring "D-Hawk's" defense into the spotlight. Hawkins played a surprising six minutes against then-No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago last week.
Hawkins didn't do much against the Spartans, but the experience will go a long way for his development.
"I definitely feel more comfortable," Hawkins said. "In the Michigan State game I was a little surprised I got in, to be honest. But then in this game I was comfortable because I knew I was probably going to get some minutes. I was just able to play the way I wanted to play, and the way I played was great tonight."
And it's no different than the way he's played in practice.
"Yeah, everything he's doing now he does in practice," Calipari said. "The kid works so hard. His heart rate is -- I have to stop him because I'm afraid he's going to fall out."
Hawkins' never-stop attitude leaves an impact on the other players.
"Like, in practice, everybody else will be -- we have heart-rate monitors to tell us how hard we're working," teammate Marcus Lee said. "Everybody else will be at 72, maybe 80, maybe we'll have one person at 90. He'll be at, like, 98. And we'll have just started practicing. And coaches will be like, 'Well, Dominique's at 98.' And we're like, 'That doesn't count. Dominique's always at 98. He sleeps at 98.'"
He sleeps at 98 and always plays at 100 percent. He's quickly turned into UK's energizer bunny.
And as he showed on his blocked shot, he never stops. Not even when it comes to arguing. After that blocked shot he labeled himself the best shot blocker on the team.
Lee disagreed, but still was amazed with how Hawkins plays.
"Really Dominique?" Lee said. "Really? But that shot block was pretty nasty, I'm not going to lie. We all just stopped in amazement because that shot block was amazing."