By Nathan Hutchinson
Register staff report
Kentucky coach John Calipari hadn’t watched Dominique Hawkins play in person until Madison Central reached the Sweet 16 last month at Rupp Arena.
But, by that time, he already knew plenty about the senior point guard.
“I kept hearing about Dominique from (UK assistant) Marquis Estill and my good friend (Richmond dentist) Dr. Robert Palmer,” Calipari said. “When I watched him play, lead his team, and play with a will to win and fight, I was totally sold.”
Two days after Hawkins led the Indians to their first-ever Sweet 16 title, Calipari offered him a scholarship.
On Thursday, UK announced that the 2013 Kentucky Mr. Basketball had officially signed with the school.
“At the Sweet Sixteen, he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game – when it was winning time – everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and they won,” Calipari said.
During the four games at the Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena, Hawkins scored 107 points. The senior had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the title game against Ballard.
Earlier this season, Hawkins surpassed Aaron Morris’ program record for points (1,980) and became the first male basketball player in school history to score 2,000 points.
A starter since his freshman season, Hawkins averaged 20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals a game this season. He also shot 50 percent from the field, 35 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free throw line.
Hawkins was named Mr. Basketball earlier this month and was also honored as the Bluegrasspreps.com Player of the Year and the Gatorade Kentucky Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.
The Richmond native is the 17th Kentucky Mr. Basketball to sign with UK.
“The last player who was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball and won a state title in the same year was Darius Miller,” Calipari said. “He went to two Final Fours, won a national title and is now playing in the NBA. My hope is Dominique will be on the same path.”
Hawkins is set to participate in the Kentucky Derby Festival this weekend in Louisville.
On Thursday, UK also announced that Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle had officially signed.
Johnson, Hawkins and Randle join fall signees Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and James Young to form the consensus top-ranked class in the nation.