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By KEITH TAYLOR, The Winchester Sun
LEXINGTON — Dominique Hawkins is ahead of the curve.
The Kentucky guard and former Madison Central High School standout has been moving at a fast pace since his arrival on campus in an effort to gain playing time in his first season with the Wildcats. The frantic pace displayed by Hawkins behind the scenes in practice has impressed Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“His heart rate is (high),” the Kentucky coach said. “I have to stop him because I’m afraid he’s going to fall out. He pushes so hard.”
Hawkins wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m such a hard worker,” Hawkins said. “He knows how hard I go.”
Hawkins was the second player off the bench in the Wildcats’ 87-49 rout of Robert Morris Sunday night at Rupp Arena. Hawkins logged 18 minutes against the Colonials and scored four points, while dishing out three assists. He added a block and a steal on the defensive end, a performance that didn’t surprise Calipari.
In a short amount of time, Hawkins has picked up on the team’s offensive and defensive schemes and positioned himself to be the team’s backup point guard behind starter Andrew Harrison.
“Everything he’s doing now, he does in practice,” Calipari said. “The kid works so hard. He pushes so hard that you saw when he went in the game how he guarded the ball. He just goes up and he adds energy to the game. You saw how hard he runs the court so we could throw to him, so we could throw lobs, so we could throw to the post. He runs. He’s good for our team.”
Hawkins was a late arrival on Kentucky’s recruiting radar and didn’t receive a scholarship offer until after leading Madison Central to the state championship. Since then, Hawkins, playing in the shadows of six classmates who earned McDonald’s All-American accolades last season, has been proving that he belongs and isn’t taking a back seat when it comes to competing for playing time.
“I wasn’t recruited high like the other guys where,” he said. “I push them and let them know that I’m able to play with them in practice. I just go my hardest in practice every time.”
Aaron Harrison hasn’t been surprised by the emergence of Hawkins and has taken note of his teammate’s competitiveness and desire to improve.
“We all know how good Dominique is,” Harrison said. “You’ve got people that are from Kentucky and know that he carried his team to the state championship. When we’re in practice, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. He’s one of the most athletic guys on the team and he makes me a lot better, too.”
Hawkins, the top scorer and go-to player in high school, also is getting used to being surrounded by equal or better talent and a different role in the collegiate ranks.
“Without the ball, it does feel really weird, because in high school, I had it all of the time,” he said. “If it’s my role not to have the ball as much and we win, I’m fine with that.”
When he needs to delve into his bench during any phase of the contest, Calipari won’t hesitate to call on Hawkins against any team on any given night.
“You know, I’m not afraid to go to him,” he said. “I’m just not. I think he’s a pretty good player.”
The compliment from Calipari “meant a lot” to Hawkins.
“It means he has confidence in me during the game and I appreciate that a lot,” the freshman guard said. “I’m always looking for that chance to get in and be able to do something for the team.”