John Calipari, Kenny Payne and Orlando Antigua were all in Rupp Arena on Wednesday to watch 2013 guard Dominique Hawkins.
Calipari was courtside for Madison Central’s opening game in the Sweet Sixteen, while his two assistant coaches sat in the first row behind one of the benches. Madison Central defeated Wayne County 81-56 to advance to the quarterfinals. The Indianas will play the winner of Homes-PRP at noon Friday.
Hawkins and Madison Central dominated Wayne County from the opening tip. The 6-foot-1 guard had 25 points, three rebounds and three assists. He shot 11-for-17 from the field and was named the player of the game. Hawkins exited with a little more than 4 minutes remaining and Madison Central up big. Calipari left his seat a few moments later.
“It’s crazy. It’s definitely crazy,” Hawkins said. “It’s an honor to even play (in Rupp Arena) and for them to be here to watch us is an honor. I hope they come again to watch. I kind of like that pressure — it makes you want to do better.”
Antigua was in Richmond last week to see Hawkins practice, but Wednesday was the first time that any of UK’s coaches had seen him play in an actual game. Hawkins talked to the Herald-Leader about his recruitment during last week’s 11th Region tournament, calling UK his “dream school.”
After Wednesday’s game, Hawkins talked about the possibility of a Kentucky scholarship offer.
“It would be really hard to turn down,” he said.
Hawkins already has a walk-on offer from Louisville and he has received interest from Alabama, Tennessee and Purdue in recent weeks. In-state schools Morehead State and Western Kentucky were previously considered the favorites in his recruitment.
Hawkins played against UK signees Andrew and Aaron Harrison at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in December. He said the twins were encouraging after the game, complimenting him on his play.
Hawkins said he would enjoy the opportunity to play against the Harrisons every day in practice.
“It would definitely improve my game,” he said. “That’s one good thing about it. Even though if I’m a backup, I know I’d still be pushed hard in practice and get even better and become a great point guard. I’d be playing against the best.”
Hawkins is one of five finalists for Mr. Basketball honors, and Madison Central is the No. 2-ranked team in the state tournament.