Hawkins saves his best for big stage

Senior ends career with memorable ovation from Kohl Center crowd

6:01 PM, Mar. 9, 2013  |  Comments
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Dominican star and Marquette commit Duane Wilson may have put it best in his press conference after Dominican got past Auburndale 57-44 to capture the WIAA Division 4 state championship.

"I love playing guys that are not well-known in the state (of Wisconsin)," Wilson said. "I had never heard of Austin Hawkins before this. He really didn't miss (though). He hit six or seven shots in a row. (After the game) All I said was 'keep his head up and he's a great player.'"

Well he wasn't well known outside of the Marawood-South Conference and the Marshfield area. Those who have seen him play over the past four years knew the abilities of Hawkins.

After his performance at the Kohl Center during the WIAA state tournament, the entire state knows and is abuzz about Hawkins, particularly after the masterpiece he put forth in a losing effort in the title game against a star-studded Dominican team that includes the 6-foot-9 Diamond Stone. Stone is a top-5 recruit in the country for the class of 2015, and Hawkins didn't back down.

Hawkins tallied a game-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, following up a 20-point effort in a 49-29 semifinal win over Amherst. Hawkins showed off his entire repertoire against Stone and the Knights, hitting fadeaways, jumpers, 3-pointers and going right at the intimidating center.

"People don't really see that part of my game, but it's something I worked hard on over the summer," Hawkins said. "I needed to use it. I mean, you're not playing any pushovers (at state). You have to be crafty work harder for position against athletes (like these)."

After the game, the Kohl Center crowd showed its appreciation for the effort put forth by Auburndale and Hawkins in particular. With roughly a minute to play, Auburndale head coach Chad Weinfurter removed Hawkins from the game, and the pair embraced near the bench as the entire building gave the senior a pleasant and memorable parting gift - a loud ovation.

"When I walked off the floor it is something I will remember. I wanted to make a name for myself (in Madison)," Hawkins said. "I wanted to come down here and make a name for myself. I wanted to put forth my best performance, I think I did that. Obviously we would of liked to have the 'W' on our side. I have played with the best guys over the past four years and I couldn't ask for anything better than that."

But Weinfurter speaks to Hawkins' character higher than his basketball skills.

"Having the privilege to coach him the last four years, and that's what it is, a privilege, it will be different not seeing big 'ol No. 32 out there," Weinfurter said. "But, I tell people all the time, he is a but better kid than he is a basketball player."

After the game, in the press room, reporters were still chattering about the game Hawkins put up against Stone and Dominican. Dominican head coach Derek Berger also had the utmost praise for Hawkins.

"Hawkins was impressive tonight: 31-and-13," Berger said. "He hit some tough shots. We switched and put different guys on him, Diamond and some other guys. He is just a great player and he put on a great show (Saturday)."

Hawkins has not been highly recruited, but now after showing the entire state what he is capable of, that is about to change, most likely.

"I was offered a partial scholarship by Clark College in Dubuque, Iowa, but it wasn't for me," Hawkins said. "I visited Concordia-Moorhead the first week of November. I was a bit sketchy, you know it's about seven hours away, basically in North Dakota. But, I fell in love first with it. "It's a private school and tuition is up there, just waiting on financial aid. My backup plans are Edgewood or Lakeland College."

Well, Hawkins' list could change. Soon.

After what many coaches saw on television or in person at the Kohl Center, the phone should start ringing a lot more.

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