Over the past two weeks, the University of Illinois men's basketball team has struck out landing a transfer 4-man. Tre Mitchell from UMass appeared to be a lock at one time, but a messy coaching change may have put that on the back burner.
Quincy Guerrier, a 6-foot-7 wing who could play multiple positions, left Syracuse to commit to Oregon.
All spring there was talk that Illinois needed another big man — one who could pass, shoot the ball, rebound, and play defense.
The good news, Illini fans, is you have that player on your roster right now: Coleman Hawkins.
Last season freshman point guard Andre Curbelo garnered most of the media hype along with the fans' attention, but the orange and blue nation also fell in love with Hawkins.
In an 82-69 loss to Baylor early in the season, fans saw a glimpse of what Hawkins could bring. In only five minutes of action, he played great defense, had a big block, and, more importantly, was aggressive, looking to be a threat on both ends of the floor.
Rodney Hawkins, Coleman's father, played Div. I basketball at San Diego State University. Rodney was instrumental in Coleman's workout plan this spring as both wanted more. Rodney gave his son tips that might help him see the court this year.
"I told him to gain more confidence, he needs to play through his mistakes," Rodney Hawkins said. "He can’t make a turnover and immediately look to the sidelines; he just has to keep playing."
Hopefully, last season was a learning curve. Oftentimes it takes big men a little longer to adjust to the game for several reasons.
Hawkins loves Illinois. He is a team player, and you can see he has special tools that cannot be taught. His effort will never be an issue.
This off-season, Rodney Hawkins said his son trained with Ryan Sypkens.
"They worked on ball handling, shooting and his specific basketball moves," Rodney Hawkins said. "Ryan put Coleman in uncomfortable positions and situations. He also worked out with a group of college and pro athletes while managing the moves that they worked on to see it translate into game situations. Coleman would have to guard different positions such as former NBA player Festus Ezeli and current NBA player Ben McLemore."
When Coleman Hawkins committed to Illinois, credited his father for not being "that guy." Parents can make it tough for their kids; no coach at any level likes to deal with parents who complain after each game, or contradict what a coach is telling the player. It makes it hard for the athlete and the coach.
Most kids want to please their parents, but in the end, it usually hurts the athlete.
"I let him (Coleman) run his own show," Rodney Hawkins said. "I act as a consultant, but the only thing that I ask in his training is that he put him in an uncomfortable situation. I don’t want him to have two hours of dribbling through cones. That's not going to help him."
Make no mistake, Rodney has high expectations for his son. He has seen him at his best and fully believes he is an important piece to the future of the Fighting Illini program.
"I think Coleman's basketball IQ is extremely high," the elder Hawkins said. "He is someone who knows all plays for all positions. He was a quarterback so that comes natural for him. He is a great shooter and free throw shooter, he is not afraid of the moment. Coleman knows his personnel as evidence of being on a team with two McDonald’s All-Americans while still gaining his own accolades as a player."
Coleman is a rare breed for Illinois basketball players these days as he grew up rooting for Illinois. The family is from Chicago, and his uncle Henry Hawkins played college basketball at Augustana College in Rock Island.
That makes him unique because he knows the Illinois tradition. Coleman succeeding at Illinois is his dream. Now it is time for him to live it on the court and take care of the four position that many appear to be worried about.