Talk of Coleman Hawkins Leading Hogs On Meets Controversial Transfer Prospect

Trevon Brazile, Coleman Hawkins, Arkansas basketball, transfer portal, NBA Draft
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Illinois Athletics

Arkansas basketball coach John Calipari is looking for one more piece to complete his inaugural roster in Fayetteville. 

“I’m looking for one more guy, and that’s what we’re going to have,” Calipari said. “The ninth? Depends who it is. That’s what we’re looking for. Is it a shooter? Is it a four man that could shoot? Is it strong, physical? Is it a defensive guy?”

“You may think I’m crazy, but I told my staff I only want to have eight or nine guys.”

With the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline earlier this week, college coaches are circling on the best of the now unambiguously available prospects left in the transfer portal. The Hogs got some good, albeit expected, news on that front when FAU transfer Johnell Davis removed his name from the draft pool and confirmed his intent to play for Arkansas.

For that ninth and probable final roster spot, Illinois basketball transfer Coleman Hawkins checks the most boxes off for both sides.

Hawkins stated at the NBA Combine that he really wanted to go pro, but economics likely swayed him to return – because he learned he would at best be signed to a two-way contract earning less than $600,000 in the G League. 

Then consider he could potentially triple that if he plays his NIL cards right with his next college team, and a return for one final run at the “amateur” level becomes a no-brainer. Essentially, by staying in college, the chances of Hawkins reaching any financial goals he has for next season are much higher than that of the Boston Celtics winning the 2024 world championship according to NBA betting odds.

What Coleman Hawkins Brings out of Transfer Portal

One of the categories on Calipari’s wish list is for a “four man that could shoot,” which is about a perfect description of Hawkins. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last season while shooting 36.9% from behind the arc.

His shooting makes him a valuable floor spacer in the frontcourt, but his most unique asset is definitely his passing. As you can see here, Hawkins has shown the ability to put the ball on the deck, drive to the rim and set up his teammates or take it himself.

He can work with and without the ball in his hands, which makes him a very intriguing option for an Arkansas team that’s already loaded in the backcourt. The senior can take the pressure off the guards and pose a mismatch while also working in the pick and roll or as a spot-up shooter.

The Sacramento, Calif., native is also an underrated defender, as shown by his 1.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game last year. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is his versatility, which is a priceless quality in this era of “positionless” basketball. As a fleet-footed big man, Hawkins has the ability to switch pick and rolls and guard multiple positions on the floor:

Put him next to a traditional banger like Jonas Aidoo, and you’ve got a monstrous frontcourt duo – and that’s not even factoring in the 7-foot-2 Croation unicorn Zvonimir Ivisic or the uber-athletic Adou Thiero.

Hawkins would also give the team something the Razorbacks sorely missed last year – passion. The Illinois big man is known as one of the more colorful personalities in college hoops, and he certainly wears his heart on his sleeve, for better or worse. Jeff Goodman from Field of 68 chimed in on this when he interviewed Hawkins on May 3.

“Sometimes I’m looking at you on the court and I’m like, ‘Man, can he shut the hell up on this one?’ But other times I do love the energy, and I think that’s what college basketball is all about,” Goodman said. “You guys are kids. Play with passion, talk some trash, even if it gets you in trouble sometimes.”

Goodman added that while Hawkins is a fierce competitor, he’s thoughtful and respectful off the court. Hawkins, it turns out, has gotten tired of the misconceptions that have come about over the years.

“When people question my character, it really pisses me off,” Hawkins said.

Social Media Trolling Makes Hawkins Perfect for New Era

Hawkins is widely regarded as one of the top available players left in the portal – his reported price tag of $2 million price tag should tell you that much. The coveted big man is clearly aware of his game-changing impact, and he has certainly had some fun with his recruiting process.

Scrolling through his Twitter page, you can find Hawkins having playful exchanges with a number of fan bases hoping to swoon him.

The circus around his recruitment has even made its way to Venmo, the online payment app that almost doubles as social media with the ability to put funny captions when you send someone money.

Various fans have begun sending Hawkins cash on Venmo with the hopes of luring him to their respective school – a joke that Hawkins himself has hopped in on by responding to the payments on Twitter. It’s hard to think of a better example of the crazy new era of college sports than this: 

Whether you love or hate college athletes getting paid, it’s hard to argue that Hawkins’ social media activity is great PR for himself. He’s certainly leveraging his talent and the attention coming his way to maximize the opportunities coming – which is what NIL is all about. 

Fans love guys who can ball on the court, and if they’re a funny character off the hardwood that makes them even more appealing and likable. It’s easy to see why Illinois fans loved watching Hawkins in orange, and were sad to see him go.

State of Arkansas Football Could Hurt Hogs’ Chances

While Arkansas is definitely in a good spot with Hawkins and might even be considered the frontrunner for his services, it’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll be wearing Razorback red. There’s tough competition, notably from North Carolina and Louisville. 

There’s also been a suggestion of the Kansas Jayhawks as a major player from some. One particularly excitable character over at Sleepers Media went so far as to suggest Hawkins is “leading everyone on” and using Arkansas as his “magician’s trick” before joining Bill Self’s loaded team for next year.

Hawkins touched on his recruitment process at the NBA Combine, and offered some insight on where his next destination won’t be.

“I will never play in the Big Ten again, I wouldn’t play in the Big East,” Hawkins said. “I would go somewhere where I can enjoy a football game.”

No offense to Sam Pittman, but that last caveat might knock his pigs down a peg…

However, of the schools that are reportedly in hot pursuit of Hawkins, Arkansas is the only one from the SEC. If the big man is in search of a good tailgating experience down south, he’ll find that just fine in Fayetteville.

Ironically, the dormant football atmosphere at Illinois that Hawkins is trying to escape from is courtesy of none other than former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who is now leading the Fighting Illini. Small world, indeed.

Fortunately for the Hogs, it’s doubtful that the state of the football program will have a significant impact on his recruitment in the grand scheme of things. The basketball-related factors are always going to come first.

Trevon Brazile: The Return?

If the Razorbacks do end up missing out on Hawkins, it will be interesting to see who Calipari turns to for that ninth spot. The Hogs could go for another big man like Arthur Kaluma, or a shooter like Wooga Poplar. Check out this column for a full breakdown of the likely candidates.

Don’t crucify me for saying this but…thinking inside the box, what about Trevon Brazile?

Calipari said he needed a power forward that can space the floor. While Brazile isn’t the playmaker that Hawkins is, he’s certainly an elite athlete who can guard multiple positions and offer elite rim protection.

It might take Arkansas fans a second to get back on the same page with Brazile after a 2023-24 season that went completely off the rails. After flashing his potential before his first year at Arkansas was ended abruptly by an ACL tear, Brazile failed to live up to the hype this past season.

He averaged 8.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game – a dropoff from his production in 2022-23 rather than the huge leap that was expected of him.

In addition to the disappointing stats, the eye test might have actually been worse for Brazile. For long stretches of games, the 6-foot-10 forward looked disengaged and even disinterested. Simply put, his effort was not at the level it needed to be. 

To be fair, many fans also became disinterested and disengaged for long stretches of last season – but they weren’t getting paid big sums of NIL money to win games.

Calipari went viral for his remark at his introductory press conference that there was no team, but it’s fair to say most Razorback fans have embraced the completely blank slate after the disaster that was Eric Musselman’s final season. 

Questions about Brazile

Going back and getting a player from that squad who was embroiled in controversy last season – some of it fair, most of it unfair – might ruffle quite a few feathers in the fanbase. 

Fortunately, there probably isn’t a better judge of character in college hoops than Coach Cal. If he does indeed end up going after Brazile, and after sitting down with him is convinced that he’s fired up to again don the Arkansas basketball jersey, would the Hogs really want to decline that?

If the Razorbacks miss out on Hawkins, there likely isn’t a better power forward option in the portal than Brazile – but with so much positive change going through the program, is it worth going back to the past to try and reconcile?

Brazile’s recruitment is still pretty open after his decision to withdraw from the NBA Draft. The big man is reportedly setting up a visit to St. John’s and is also interested in Memphis, while Nebraska appears to be the highest bidder at the table. That’s a winnable race for Arkansas, but you have to wonder if it might just be best for both parties to go their separate ways.

It remains to be seen whom Calipari will pick last from the transfer portal pumpkin patch. Whether it’s Hawkins, Brazile or someone else from the vast expanse of transfers, Calipari’s final choice has the potential to push Arkansas’ roster up a peg into a truly enviable place.

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Potential Landing Spots for Coleman Hawkins

Besides the Arkansas, North Carolina is a potential destination after the departure of Armando Bacot, the former star Tarheel center. It’s unclear whether Vanderbilt transfer Ven-Allen Lubin donning of the powder blue would dissuade Hawkins from coming, though.

Watch out for Arizona State and Texas, too.

Arizona State is on the recruiting upswing and clearly has NIL cash to use after scoring the No. 4 recruiting class in the 2024 recruiting cycle by 247Sports. That includes Jayden Quaintance, the former UK pledge whom many Hogs wanted to see come to Fayetteville after his de-commitment post Calipari’s departure.

And it may help that Hawkins is originally a West Coast guy.

Texas, meanwhile, is in strong need of a starting power forward/center type and clearly has the money and high-quality football boxes checked off. Although they should have a talented team including Arkansas transfer Tramon Mark, it’s unclear if Texas basketball coach Rodney Terry has what it takes to develop prospects into quality future NBA players after leading them deep into March Madness.

Bask in the glory of Hawkins’ senior-year highlight tape:

Watch the full interview with Hawkins and Goodman:

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If the Razorbacks instead choose to pursue a wing for that final roster spot, Arthur Kaluma would be a good fit. Listed at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, he played the first two years of his career at Creighton before joining the Kansas State basketball program last season.

Yes, there’s a chance that Kaluma ends up back in Manhattan, Kan., as Kansas State coach Jerome Tang has been open about his desire to retain him, but many believe Kaluma is headed elsewhere.

Read more about that below:

More coverage of Arkansas basketball from Best of Arkansas Sports:

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