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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Hawk down?

It seems illogical to say that being an All-American can be detrimental for a player. After all, how could being named one of CBS Sports’ top 100 players in the nation and a Lou Henson Mid-Major All American be a bad thing for a player? The answer is simple: pressure.

After a fantastic sophomore season — in which Corey Hawkins averaged 20.3 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game — he came into this season with a whole lot of pressure and expectation. With the addition of freshmen Brynton Lemar and Georgi Funtarov along with the junior transfer Iggy Nujic, the Aggies seemed to have a lot of talent coming into this season.

However, the Aggies stuttered out of the gate. With the early season-ending injury to J.T. Adenrele and Hawkins’ early season struggles from beyond the arc, the Aggies are limping into conference play.

Adenrele’s injury has hurt the Aggies, but Hawkin’s struggles seem to be a primary concern for Aggie fans. While there is no empirical data that shows the accolades have hurt Hawkins’ game, there definitely has been an observable difference in the level of attention other teams have been placing on the junior guard.

Hawkins’ shooting percentage has dropped from a solid 47.4 percent to a pedestrian 41.4 percent. Even more surprising is Hawkins’ drop in three-point shooting. He shot 40 percent from beyond the arc in the 2012-13 season. This number has dropped down to an abysmal 27.1 percent this season, showing that other teams are acutely aware of his talents.

Yet, it’s unfair to say that the 5-10 record has been solely due to the struggles of Hawkins. UC Davis struggled early last season, as they went 4-7 before starting conference play, including a loss to a Oklahoma State team which started NBA lottery prospect Marcus Smart. The reasonably difficult schedule has seen the Aggies fall to Pac-12 teams Utah and Stanford, as well as San Jose State.

In short, UC Davis tends to play tougher opponents in the beginning of the season, before conference play begins. Thus, while unpleasant, the tough stretch of games for the Aggies is not unexpected.

But, the drop off in Hawkins’ production has been unexpected. Last season in the first 11 games, Hawkins led the Aggies in scoring five times and scored 20 or more points in each of these five games. In the first 15 games of this season, Hawkins has managed to lead all UC Davis scorers seven times but has only hit the 20 point mark three times. Clearly it isn’t coming as easy for Hawkins as it was last year.

I’m not bashing Hawkins. I think what he has done for UC Davis has been phenomenal. All I’m saying is that maybe the attention he garnered for his outstanding play last season has gotten other teams a little more focused on containing him, and he has yet to adjust.

But all is not lost for the season for both the Aggies and Hawkins, as the Aggies have had better success when playing against conference opponents. Also, Hawkins, while not as prolific in his scoring as in the past, has been constantly contributing in other ways.

The loss of J.T. Adenrele, UC Davis’ best rebounder, has been crucial as coach Jim Les has resorted to “small ball,” often playing four-guard lineups. This has caused the Aggies to be destroyed on the boards, getting outrebounded by their opponents by an average of seven rebounds per game. However, Hawkins has been one of the better rebounders for UC Davis once again this season, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game.

I want to present some hope at the light of the tunnel. Just as it took some time for Hawkins to settle in last season, it will probably take some time for him to get used to the attention he’s getting.

Once he does, opponents should be wary, as he can put up points in a hurry. If Hawkins can get going offensively, the three-point loving Aggies should play some exciting basketball as they showed in their 93-69 win against Simpson, where senior guard Ryan Sypkens caught fire on his way to a 30-point game and Hawkins added 19 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field.

Maybe this was the jumpstart UC Davis needed to step up their game. Keep your head up Aggie fans, the season has just begun.



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