CHAMPAIGN — Jalen Green had the crowd on its feet with a series of increasingly wild pregame dunks. Chicago native Nimari Burnett got some nice applause when he was announced as a starter.
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But Prolific Prep’s five-star guards knew who the Friday night crowd of approximately 450 at Centennial High School — that included Illinois coaches Brad Underwood, Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman — was there to see. It was future Illini forward Coleman Hawkins’ debut, sort of, in Champaign.
That’s why Burnett found Hawkins on the wing on the first possession of the game. The 6-foot-10 forward obliged, knocking down a deep three-pointer to put the Crew ahead for what turned out to be a 107-82 victory against St. Louis Christian. Hawkins finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and two steals.
Green and Burnett scored more — finishing with 32 and 29, respectively. That wasn’t all that surprising. Prolific Prep goes as they go.
But Hawkins filled in the gaps. Did the little things that put you in a positive light with your future coach and most of his staff in attendance to see you play.
Half of Hawkins’ rebounds came at the offensive end. He used his length to get in passing lanes and alter shots. He dove on the floor for a loose ball. All the things Underwood values in his players.
Not a bad way for Hawkins to introduce himself to the basketball fans in Champaign.