The first day John Calipari showed up to watch Dominique Hawkins at the Sweet Sixteen, the Madison Central guard didn’t even see him.
On the second day, Hawkins’ teammates kept telling him that the UK coach was sitting courtside, but he refused to take a peek.
On day three, Hawkins couldn’t help himself.
“It was an accident,” he said. “I was looking around. I’m just looking, and then, ‘Oh whoa, there’s Coach Cal right there!’ It looked like we made eye contact, but I don’t think he was looking at me. Then I was like, ‘Oh shoot, let me get back to the game.’”
It was another classic from Hawkins and Madison Central, which rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to defeat Hopkinsville 60-56 and advance to the Sweet Sixteen title game.
Hawkins scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The senior guard had 23 points in the second half and 15 points in the fourth quarter. He was 17-for-20 from the free-throw line and hit several big shots down the stretch.
In three games in Rupp Arena, Hawkins is averaging 28.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.
“I feel like I’m dreaming right now,” he said.
The clutch performances on the state’s biggest stage have translated into more exposure for the lightly recruited 6-foot-1 guard, who said he had 22 messages on his phone when he returned to the locker room after his 31-point performance Friday.
In addition to the increased interest from Kentucky, Hawkins picked up a scholarship offer from South Carolina following Friday’s game. Gamecocks Coach Frank Martin is expected to be in Rupp Arena on Sunday for Hawkins’ final high school game.
It’s probably a good bet that Calipari will return for a fourth look at Hawkins.
“I’m just blessed that he’s able to watch my talent,” Hawkins said. “And hopefully good things happen for me and everything goes great.”
Does he feel like he’s putting pressure on Calipari to extend a UK scholarship offer?
“I guess I’m putting pressure on him,” he said shyly. “I don’t know though. I’m going to say, ‘Yeah, I’m putting pressure on him.’”
Hawkins hasn’t tried to hide his love of the Wildcats. He said Friday that he has been a fan since he was “in diapers” and tweeted out the #BBN hashtag before the tip of UK’s victory over Florida earlier Saturday. “This game is important for Kentucky fans,” he said.
The only game on Hawkins’ mind now is Sunday’s state championship matchup with Ballard.
With one more victory, he’ll lead Madison Central to its first state title in school history.
“I’ve dreamed about taking the last-second buzzer shot to win the state tournament, or a last second free throw,” he said. “I’ve dreamed about that.”