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Illini Fans Should Expect A Breakout Season From Coleman Hawkins

Spoiler alert: Hawkins is more than just a big body that can grab some rebounds.
Coleman Hawkins Illinois Basketball

Photo: IlliniMBB/Twitter

Last season, Coleman Hawkins only averaged 6.3 minutes per game as Illinois basketball's versatile forward with the ability to make perimeter shots and utilize his athleticism at the rim.

This season, Hawkins is primed for a much bigger role and he knows it.

Illini Fans Should Expect More

In Illinois' second exhibition victory over Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Hawkins stepped up in the starting lineup with Austin Hutcherson and Da'Monte Williams out due to injury. The dynamic sophomore netted 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Illini's 94-79 victory.

It was just an exhibition game, but there is no reason why Hawkins won't have a much bigger role in the 2021-22 season. The 6-foot-10 forward was a three-star recruit for Brad Underwood. He was ranked No. 142 by Rivals and No. 156 by 247Sports when he was a high school senior.

Hawkins' favorite player is Kevin Durant, which makes sense because they're both similarly built and have comparable playing styles. Hawkins doesn't have the ball skills of Durant, but he can certainly be a high flyer on the fast break and step into a three-pointer, much like Durant so many times throughout his historical career.

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Former Illini star Mike LaTulip, the newest contributor to Illini Inquirer, broke down what Hawkins brings to the Illini both offensively and defensively. Spoiler alert: he's more than just a big body that can grab some rebounds.

What is Hawkins' Role?

It will be interesting to see how Brad Underwood utilizes Hawkins in the first three games of the season with Kofi Cockburn suspended due to NIL violations, which by the way, are another example of the NCAA getting in their own way. Alas.

Hawkins should get an uptick in minutes and could be a No. 2 or No. 3 scoring option on the floor at certain times. If opposing teams do not have any athletic bigs, Hawkins could cause opposing coaches headaches given his size and length.

Hawkins has never scored more than five points in a regular-season game. Expect him to shatter that record fairly quickly once the season tips off, perhaps as soon as Nov. 9 when Jackson State visits the State Farm Center.

There's no doubt that Hawkins could be the x-factor off the Illini bench, similar to Andre Curbelo last season. That's not to say we should expect the forward to win the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, but he should provide an immediate impact off the bench.

In summary, Coleman Hawkins will be fun to watch in 2021-22.