Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Northwestern

Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) drives
Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) drives / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 5

4. This is the Coleman Hawkins many had hoped to see

Coming out of an offseason that saw Coleman Hawkins enter the NBA Draft, get evaluated, and then come back to Illinois had a lot of fans thinking we could see a special player in 2023-24.

That didn’t seem to be the case early on. Hawkins was dealing with some injuries, and he even missed a few games. Leading up to the time off because of the injury, Hawkins’ best game was against Oakland when he dropped eight points, eight rebounds, and five assists.

Since coming back from injury on December 2, we have seen a new Hawkins. Some would say a healthier Hawkins. While the big man is still not 100%, his words, not mine, he is playing some of the best basketball I have ever seen him play at Illinois.

Hawkins has now had five straight double-digit scoring games. He has scored at least 12 points in all of those contests. In this stretch of games, he has shot 25-of-54, 46.3%, from the floor and an incredible 15-of-34, 44.1%, from three-point range.

The talented big man has done everything for the Illini. In that same stretch of five games, Hawkins has averaged 14.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. And he had done this efficiently, as he has only averaged 1.6 turnovers per contest.

It was all capped off with a great showing on Tuesday night against Northwestern. Hawkins tore the Wildcats apart with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal while going 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-5 from three-point range.

This is the Hawkins everyone was expecting to see. He is healthy enough to start dominating again. If this is a Hawkins who isn’t fully healthy, can you imagine one that is? That is a scary thought for opposing teams.