Hawkins picks Illinois again

   FORT SMITH, Ark.  Festus Hawkins is coming back to the University of Illinois, his coach said this morning.

   Hawkins, who left the UI last December after being declared ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse, will put his name on a second letter of intent during next month''s fall signing period.

   "I think he really enjoyed it while he was up there," Westark (Ark.) Community College coach Charles Ripley said. "He knows what to expect when he gets there. He wants to come back."

   The 6-foot-9, 300-pound Hawkins is the first player to orally commit to UI coach Lon Kruger this fall. Illinois has seven scholarships available.

   Ripley said Hawkins also seriously considered the University of Houston, but canceled a scheduled official visit last weekend.

   After playing this season for Westark, Hawkins will have three years of eligibility remaining. He sat out all of 1996-97 after the NCAA ruled he was one course shy of the core minimum.

   He left in December, owing the UI more than $7,000 for out-of-state tuition and room and board. How he''ll repay that debt remains uncertain.

   "He doesn''t blame Illinois," Ripley said. "It wasn''t the school that caused the problems."

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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