Updated: Apr 1
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present University of Illinois commit Coleman Hawkins, from Antelope, California:
Pro Insight: Describe your game – what are your greatest strengths and biggest areas for improvement? What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
Coleman Hawkins: I think one of the main things I bring to the table is my playmaking — that’s a big thing I do — I make plays for my teammates. Also, shooting the ball, stretching out defenses...I’m 6’10” and I’m able to run almost any position on the court, I feel like I’m able to learn any position, and almost guard every position as well...so versatility is a big strength. In terms of room for improvement, I think rebounding is one area. And although I can guard multiple positions, my defense can get better. I feel like people really sleep on my passing and playmaking and those are some of the main things I can do in my opinion. I don’t have a whole bunch of hype to my name. I feel like I’m in the perfect spot right now. I don’t want a whole bunch of clout going into college. I just want to be kind of under the radar and shock the world, shock the Big Ten, just going to college and not having a lot of teams worrying about me and as soon as I get to campus I make a huge impact for the team. That’s why I’m in the perfect place right now, I’m not underrated or overrated.
PI: In high school or AAU who have been some players who have been tough matchups for you?
CH: I don’t feel like there was a person who was too tough of a match-up, but I would say the toughest person I’ve ever had to guard was probably LaMelo Ball — last year, when I was a junior. But honestly, I don’t feel like there’s anyone this year that’s caused me to say “oh this guy’s really good,” so I can’t name anyone right now.
PI: What was tough about guarding LaMelo?
CH: He can literally do everything: his passing and vision is impressive; he had 20 points against us and it was just a slight 20 points, it was just so easy. He’s so smooth, too...his ball-handling, shooting, everything...honestly he’s probably the best player I’ve ever played against.
PI: What are your short term goals?
CH: Short term, probably win the Grind Session championship...hopefully we’ll be the first Prolific Prep team to ever do that. There hasn’t been a Prolific Prep team to win the Grind Session championship, yet. Hopefully do that, make it into GEICO, at least win a game and win the GEICO National Championship. Going into college, I think my main focus would be developing my body over the summer, getting stronger and faster, and get prepared to play at the next level. I feel like there’s no one on the team at Illinois, as of right now, who can do the things that I do and I think they’re really missing me and I think I can really help them out. So coming in and impacting as a freshman would be a really good thing for my team. Getting into the tournament next year and winning the Big Ten would be some more big goals.
PI: How about your long term goals?
CH: I haven’t really thought a lot about long term goals, but definitely making the pros — making the NBA one day, that’s every hooper’s goal. Hopefully I’ll do that...but doing it for my family, that’s a big part of it. My family isn’t really putting any pressure on me, but going there and making it to the league and doing it for them is what I want to do. That’s who I want to do it for...they aren’t putting any extra pressure on me or anything like that, but they’ve sacrificed so much for me and I think in the end I want to be in the pros from all their support and help them out and make their life easier if I were to go into the NBA.
PI: Coming into high school did you foresee this path of going to a prep school? Can you talk a bit about your path to Prolific Prep?
CH: Prolific Prep wasn’t really an option my freshman year...freshman year I played JV [Antelope High] because my dad didn’t want me to play varsity...he wanted me to take my time and be patient. I was only 6’4” as a freshman and sophomore year I grew to 6’7” and that’s when I really started taking things seriously with basketball...because even freshman year I was still playing football, but I zoned in on basketball my sophomore year. I got on the circuit with Dream Vision and I started playing and coaches started talking to me...I started doing unofficial visits — I took my first one to Stanford. After that year, a media outlet called Cali Hoops came to record a game and I was a sophomore on varsity and there was a whole bunch of seniors so I didn’t get the ball that much. They came to record me and they didn’t get a lot of clips so they started complaining about it on Twitter and it was kind of funny, they were like, “I came to watch this dude, this guy’s a pro and stuff, this guy should really consider transferring to Prolific Prep.” That’s when it first came onto my radar. Jordan Brown went to Prolific Prep and he grew up like five minutes away from my house, and I was like, “Prolific Prep? I don’t want to go to Prolific Prep.” I had heard of Napa, but I didn’t even know where it is. My dad said, “maybe we should seriously consider it,” because the next year’s Antelope team wasn’t going to be very good. The JV team was all going to be juniors and the seniors I had already played with, so we considered it and in the summer it was kind of last minute, I talked to all the coaches at Prolific and like two days before school was going to start at Antelope we made it official...I transferred and got all of my transcripts taken care of, that’s how it all happened. I wasn’t really planning on attending Prolific, I was planning on doing all four years at Antelope.
PI: What was that transition like and how did you grow from it?
CH: I thought it was going to be like an IMG or Oak Hill where you’re on campus and in dorms, that type of atmosphere — but it’s completely different. We go to a school called Napa Christian...it has about 150 students, so I was unaware of this… I would go and do a workout, but I thought that’s where they practiced and stuff, so the first day I was like “what the heck is this?” There was a whole bunch of 6’10” guys running around and a whole bunch of little kindergarteners running around. I got there and moved in with my host family the day before school started and I just went with it — I didn’t know what was going on and I got used to it. I go to Napa Christian and we travel all over the place with Prolific Prep. It definitely helped a lot [in terms of maturing], I missed regular high school a lot...it was a big sacrifice so it was different. But learning on the court, getting a way better feel for the game, a better IQ. Coach Billy McKnight did a great job last year of showing me the game and helping me understand the game...there’s so much I learned and just implementing it into my game. Napa Christian lets us use their gym so much, we can use it whenever we want...so we have great resources...and this year they have people who will rebound for us, open the gym for us, but definitely having better resources and letting us use the gym when we want [has helped game mature]. At Antelope we couldn’t use the gym when we wanted, so it has definitely helped a lot [being at Prolific].
PI: Talk some about your family background. Any family members play basketball?
CH: Yeah — my dad’s uncle, his name is Tommy Hawkins — he played for the Laker back in the day. He went to Notre Dame. My dad played at San Diego State for two years, he went to Colby CC in Kansas for two years first and transferred to San Diego State for his last two years of college. Then he played overseas after that in Finland and Germany I believe. My older sister Taylor went to Vincennes University and then she played at Wiley College in Texas...she was super good, she could have gone to a bigger school, butI’m pretty sure she didn’t have the grades. My other sister, Ashley, went to Vincennes and transferred to the University of Evansville; and my youngest sister is playing at Newman University which is a DII school. I’m the youngest.
PI: What was that like growing up in a basketball family?
CH: We had a basketball hoop in the backyard. My dad would teach us the game, but going to their games [his sisters] and seeing them play and them going all the way to the Midwest to school gave me a sense of “if they can do it, I can do it,” like going far away for college, it’s not a big deal for me. I’ve been able to transition out of my comfort zone and go to a whole different school and live with a whole different family. Seeing them do it has really encouraged me to do it.
PI: Why do you wear number #33? Is there a story behind that?
CH: My great uncle wore it, plus I just like the number 3, so #33 seemed like a good number.
PI: In your recruitment process, what were you looking for in a school and what made Illinois the right place for you?
CH: I was just looking for a school — like Illinois right now — that doesn’t really have someone like me on their roster. I can be different and help the team out, like come in as a freshman and impact the team. Definitely, a bigger school with a football team because I like football. The atmosphere on Illinois campus is crazy...all the fans are crazy and they love sports, there are tons of activities to do on campus...it’s not far from Chicago, I’ve got plenty of family in Chicago. Illinois was a school that had everything I wanted...it just checked a lot of boxes for me: football team, good basketball program, good conference, a chance to be a winning team, things like that. They checked every box on my list and so on my visit it was the last day and I packed all my stuff, we went to breakfast and met with the coaches one last time and I committed on the spot — so it was great to be out there and experience that.
PI: How do you think their system fits your style of play? What are you most looking forward to about playing at Illinois?
CH: Just letting defense transition into offense. Getting out and scoring and playing a fast-paced game. Playing in front of sold out crowds. Everywhere you go there’s going to be a sold out crowd in the Big Ten — it’s a great conference. Like I said, they don’t really have anyone who’s like me...I wouldn’t want to be on a roster that has three people on the team that are just like me and you’re just competing for minutes...I mean of course I’ll be competing for minutes, but in terms of someone who can space defenses and make plays for others, they really don’t have anyone like that. Kofi [Cockburn] is big and gets rebounds, Giorgi [Bezhanishvili] has his jump hook; they can rebound, they’re strong and physical, but they don’t have someone like me.
PI: How excited are you to play with incoming players Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller? Is that something you discussed before committing?
CH: We really didn’t talk much. I committed and then coaches told me who they were trying to get, so I was trying to help recruit them. I knew Adam and Andre were going to come. I saw Andre play a little bit, but I haven’t seen his game much. I briefly saw him play and I’m super excited. Adam, we all know what he can do, he can score the ball well...I’m super excited for what the future holds for us.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
CH: Funny. Leader. Caring. Supportive.
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball? What are you looking for and what are your biggest takeaways when you watch?
CH: I’d say I watch more college. I try to keep up with Illinois — sometimes I don’t want to watch because the games get so close, but I try to keep up. Most of the time we’re on the road — we’re just as busy as every team in college — we’re doing a whole bunch of stuff, always traveling, but I try to keep up with college. NBA is cool, but it’s nothing like college. In college, they’re playing defense, running offenses. I try to keep up with college, but most of the time I don’t have much time to watch as much as I’d like to.
PI: College or pro, current or former player – do you model your game after anyone?
CH: Yeah definitely. Kevin Durant is the best player on the planet, so that’s who I tend to focus on...then Aaron Gordon, a Nor Cal dude. I think he’s super underrated — he’s a beast, I keep up with Aaron Gordon. I’m nothing near as athletic as him, but I feel like some of his game is really slept on, like his shooting ability has improved a whole bunch. I love Aaron Gordon’s game. I grew up watching him. So those two guys, Kevin Durant and Aaron Gordon.
PI: Which position do you view yourself as?
CH: Power forward, stretch-four.
PI: Please explain what Coleman Hawkins brings to a team, regardless of the situation – name some things on the court and some things off the court.
CH: Off the court I would say I’m a great personality — I can make anyone laugh. I’m not trying to talk myself up of anything, but everyone likes to be around me. On the court, playmaking, just being a big part of the offense...I’m able to set screens for Jalen [Green] and while all eyes are on him, but nobody is looking at me when I roll or pop so I’m always open. Defensively, a lot of people sleep on my shot blocking. My dad used to block shots, my sister holds the block record at our high school with 16 blocks in a game...it’s a genetic thing in my opinion. I feel like I can block shots really well. I run the floor well, space the floor, things like that.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life? Why has that stuck with you and what did you learn from it?
CH: Last year I had two of my cousins pass away and I guess the biggest thing I took away from it is just be happy in life. The way I handled the situation, I saw myself mature really fast. Being able to live my life and not pout or be upset everyday with them not around, I think it really helped me mature as a person on and off the court...because now I really have something to focus on and I don’t want to take anything for granted. I really want to go and compete and do all these things for them and my family. My cousin Andrew passed, he was only 15 years old at the time and he supported me and loved keeping up with me...he wanted to play basketball, too...on my first unofficial to Illinois he was right there with me. So being able to mature from the situation and grow from it and play the game of basketball for them has been the biggest thing that’s helped me out.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
CH: Probably from my dad, he tells me all the time, “if I tell myself that I’m going to have a bad day or have a bad game then it’s bound to happen, but if I go out and wake up in a good mood and try to be happy in my life, then that’s how my life is going to be everyday.” If I tell myself that today is going to be a good day or I’m going to have a good game or something like that then it’s bound to happen. I just don’t put any negative thoughts in my head throughout the day. I just try to be cool and focus on being happy. A lot of people focus on the wrong things and always try to be negative about a situation, but I try to look at the positive.
PI: What, or who, would you say is your biggest motivation in life?
CH: I don’t really have a motivation, but the reason why I want to play basketball is for my family. Thinking about my family, as I said before, the sacrifices they’ve made, all these things that they’ve done for me which has allowed me to do what I do with basketball — it just means a lot to me. If I can come to a point where I can repay them for all the things they’ve done for me...that is something that motivates me.
PI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CH: 10 years? [laughs], I’ll be 28 years old, hopefully I’ll have at least one kid and hopefully he’s a boy. I hope to be financially stable, I have some money, a happy family or something like that, I don’t even know. From a basketball standpoint, hopefully I’m in the NBA or in some sort of professional job in basketball like coaching, something that definitely involves basketball.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
CH: I want to be remembered for my character. I’m not a serious guy, but when it’s time to be serious I can be serious...but I want to be known as the cool, funny guy that anyone can trust or anyone can have a laughing moment with. I don’t want to be known as a mean guy or an a-hole or someone you can’t be yourself around, I just want to be known as a super cool guy.