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Kentucky Basketball: The Dominque Hawkins Conundrum

Dominique Hawkins had his legend writ large at the Kentucky State Basketball Tournament, known around these parts as the Sweet Sixteen, when he led his Madison Central team to a Cinderella title. He wants to come to Kentucky, but can it happen?

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Hawkins. Those of us who haven’t paid that much attention to him over the last few years have no choice but to pay attention to him now. He led Madison Central to a victory over the favored Ballard Bruins in the Kentucky High School State Championship. He is officially a legend in nearby Richmond, and in Kentucky Sweet Sixteen lore.

Hawkins has been playing so well he’s had several visits from Kentucky coach John Calipari and his staff during his games. Visits, but no offers. Not from Coach Cal. Not from any Division I school that people would point to and say, "Wow." Instead, Hawkins has offers from Western Kentucky University (my alma mater), Tennessee Tech, Morehead St. (Sean Woods’ team), and South Carolina.

These are all good schools, fine schools, schools with proud and talented basketball teams. South Carolina is an SEC school with a coach who is going to win there. Sean Woods is going to win at Morehead. Western punched their ticket to the Big Dance just the other day. Good schools in good leagues that play basketball at a high level.

But Kentucky is a whole different level. Kentucky is the Big Blue Legend, the most storied program in America. Home of Beard, Danpier, Issel, Nash, Givens, Delk, Wall, Davis -- among many other chimerical names.

Normally, this is not a big thing. Players like Hawkins wind up going to schools like WKU, or USC, or Morehead. Hawkins is a talent, but he’s not a Kentucky Wildcats talent, not right now. That’s not to say he can’t play at Kentucky, he certainly is fully capable, but he’s closer to a Jarrod Polson than a Marquis Teague.

The reason it’s a big thing is because Hawkins wants to play for Kentucky – he’s wanted to since… forever. He’s a Wildcat fan in the way that most of us grew up to be. Which is a conundrum.

Kentucky is unlikely to have free scholarships to throw around next year. With six players coming in already, three more holding offers seriously considering it, and the possibility that some of this year’s freshman class won’t make the NBA leap, scholarships are at a premium. There could even, for the first time in Calipari’s tenure, be a genuine scholarship crunch.

Which brings us back to Hawkins. I am pretty sure Calipari wants him on the team. I am positive that he is not prepared to offer him a scholarship. That means the Kentucky State Tournament MVP will have to make a decision, and that decision may not be up to him. Walking on at Kentucky is expensive, and knowing nothing about his family situation, turning down one of the other full ride offers to walk on at UK may be financially untenable.

Calipari would doubtless offer him a preferred walk-on spot like he did Jarrod Polson, but even Polson might be paying his own way next year, so there are few scenarios where Hawkins has an open scholarship available for him, although they do exist in the theoretical sense.

So whither Dominique Hawkins? Like many players wanting to play at Kentucky but not quite good enough to draw a scholarship offer, he’s good enough to get a ride at many Division I schools. But UK is where he wants to be

Tough player. Tough choice. Tough situation for Coach Cal, who I think would dearly love to have him. What will be the outcome? We should know pretty soon.