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Illini Coleman Hawkins Testing the NBA Draft



Illini Coleman Hawkins Testing NBA Draft
Mar 15, 2023; Des Moines, IA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) speaks during the press conference before their opening round game of the NCAA tournament in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Coleman Hawkins will test out the path to the NBA while exercising his eligibility.

On March 28th, Coleman Hawkins announced on Twitter that he will be testing out the NBA draft while remaining his eligibility. This is not a surprise to anyone. Coleman Hawkins has always had the measurables with his height and length. During his junior season, he flashed multiple moments of the skillset that many NBA teams look for in a big man. Most notably, Hawkins put up a triple double against Syracuse and constantly showed the defensive versatility that so many NBA teams love.

However, Hawkins had some frustrating moments. Though the Junior forward out of Sacramento was clearly frustrated himself at many points during the season, he showed some glaring weak points that were certainly noticed by many. He has the measurables and skillset, however the consistency has typically been a question with Hawkins.

Hawkins has a strong draft profile. 

As mentioned, Hawkins is a 6 foot 10, mobile 225 pound forward. In the NBA, he can play in the frontcourt or out on the wing. He has the skills to put it on the deck, and has shown to be a solid passer. Obviously, whenever you get a triple double, you have the ability to do multiple things on the court. However, Hawkins is truly a versatile big. Offensively, he can shoot the 3, put the ball on the deck, and even post up in certain situations like he did in the Big Ten Tournament.

Defensively, Hawkins can switch 1 through 5. He successfully guarded players like Ron Harper Jr and both Murray brothers from Iowa. Though he may not have statistically “locked up” these two players, he had a major impact while guarding Hunter Dickinson during the Illini’s game against Michigan this year. Hawkins averaged around 1 block and steal per game, which proves his versatility on both ends.

Right now, Hawkins projects as a middle to late second round pick.  Recent mocks have shown him in the late 40’s, while projects him in the late 50’s. Professional comparisons are always tough, but if Coleman can buy into being a strong 3 and D wing/power forward, he can be successful in the right situation. Players like Herb Jones and Matisse Thybulle have excelled in this 3 and D role, while also occasionally showing off their skillset.

Aspects of his game to work on.

The main aspect for Coleman to show he can improve on is efficiency and consistency. As stated above, he has shown the ability to do everything on the court. However from a statistical point of view, he needs to do a few things better. One item is to shoot the ball more efficiently. Hawkins shot 44 percent from the field. Though it is clear he is mostly a perimeter oriented player, he also shot 28 percent from the 3. Hawkins has had nights where he makes 4-5 threes, then has a night where he goes 1-5 or 0-6. Some of this could be attributed to shot selection, however he has to be more consistent in this.

Additionally, Coleman has to rebound better. He averaged around 6.9 rebounds if you alter his averages to per 36 minutes. I think that if he can improve his shooting and rebounding in the offseason, he can be a first team Big Ten player.

Reasons to come back to Illinois

Coleman Hawkins was visibly frustrated with the situation this team was in and he put the onus on himself. Hawkins was noted to say that he felt the young players received a different kind of treatment, and he put it on himself for not being the veteran that held the team together. Perhaps a team with better chemistry will aid Hawkins’ play which can ultimately propel him into the late first round.  Perhaps a team with a veteran point guard will allow Coleman to focus on the things stretch big men should be focusing on: making shots, playing sound defense and rebounding the ball.

There is a case for both, I do think that playing in the professionals can ultimately develop Coleman Hawkins’ potential. However, there is a massive opportunity to come back and establish himself as a first team all-Big Ten player. Coleman also seems like a guy that will weigh both of his options. Personally, I feel like he will keep an eye on how Illinois progresses through the portal season. If Illinois has the pieces to contend and shore up the weaknesses on this roster, Coleman will definitely look into returning. Not to mention the NIL money Illinois could provide.

Regardless, one has to be very proud of the three star forward from Sacramento. He has put himself in a place of leverage, which allows him to choose from two very exciting opportunities. Illinois just has to do their part.

Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.