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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Hypin’ the Hawk

As the college basketball season creeps closer to tipoff, the hype surrounding UC Davis men’s basketball team — specifically junior shooting guard Corey Hawkins — grows louder. So what’s up with the hype? Is it justified?

Averaging 20.3 points per game along with 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists last season, the high praise which Hawkins has been receiving seems to be well-deserved. But, as sports fans know, it’s one thing to have a great season and another thing entirely to have back-to-back great seasons.

ESPN, CBS Sports and other publications have noticed Hawkins’ success last season and are touting another successful season for the talented two-guard. The media is alerted and expectations have been set.

However, before we push the Hawkins-to-the-NBA bandwagon, there are a few things Hawkins needs to prove during his remaining career as an Aggie.

With accolade comes recognition and Hawkins will definitely be recognized, especially by opponents. Triangle-and-two, box-and-one and other unique defenses were used at times to try and stop Hawkins last season. He should expect more of the same this season as teams — especially in the Big West — will be keying in on him.

The injury of junior forward and All-Big West honorable mention J.T. Adenrele, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in August, is going to ratchet the pressure on Hawkins to provide more than buckets. Adenrele was second on the team, averaging 5.9 rebounds per game.

The 6’3” Hawkins was the third-leading rebounder on the team last season, with recent graduate Ryan Howley leading the way with 7.5 rebounds per game. The Aggies are a small team already and the loss of two of their leading rebounders is only going to force them to crash the boards more effectively as a team.

With UC Irvine, a contender for the Big Sky title, recruiting a pair of seven-foot giants, the Aggies are going to need to find a way of rebounding over the skyscrapers which the Anteaters currently have. Hawkins will most definitely need to continue to contribute on the boards.

The preseason schedule is not any prettier for the Aggies, as they face possible Pac-12 title contenders Utah and Stanford. How well will Hawkins play against the “more talented” teams of the Pac-12?

Well, looking at last year’s performance against Stanford, not well. Hawkins went 3-14 from the field with 10 points and four rebounds. Clearly not a stellar performance.

However, this was only the seventh game in his UC Davis career. He clearly gained steam near the end of the year including an impressive 21-point game against UC Irvine and 34-point explosion against Long Beach State on national television.

Hopefully, Hawkins can keep up his momentum and remove the horrendous experience at Stanford from his memory.

Regardless of Hawkins’ performance against Stanford on Dec. 14, his season will be judged on one thing: winning.

As Al Davis once said, “Just win baby, win.”

No matter how great his stats may be — and it stands to reason that they will be pretty impressive — the bottom line is how much Hawkins does to help the Aggies win games. Hopefully the answer is: a lot.

UC Davis is a team on the cusp of making the Big Dance. They definitely have the talent especially with newcomers freshmen Brynton Lemar and Georgi Funtarov. Now it is important for them to put their talents to use and consistently win games.

As a junior and the team’s best player, Hawkins will need to be the leader for the team. Pushing his teammates to step up their games and providing excellent performances when needed will be key for Hawkins’ success this season.

At the end of the day, the Aggies will go as far as Hawkins takes them.

It’s great to have hype surrounding UC Davis basketball and the hype is definitely alive. Despite the injury to Adenrele, a difficult preseason schedule and a much improved Big West conference, Hawkins is expected to have another fantastic season. The hype is very much real.

Now it’s time for Hawkins to justify the hype is not just a flash in the pan.

If you thought KENNETH LING was talking about an actual hawk, email him at sports@theaggie.org.

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