Thursday, June 8, 2017

Utica's Hawkins Making Noise On Market

During his first three years at Utica-Proctor, Jalen Hawkins was on pace to become one of the top scorers in New York State history. Scoring at all three levels and shooting a thread above 51 percent, Hawkins averaged 32 points per game.

On bigger stages, Hawkins never once dipped below his scoring average. Decimating defenses with a beyond-the-arc game and a knack for going right at the frontcourt and finishing with either hand.

Both historically and currently, upstate New York has churned out a torrent of talented guards. During the summer leading into his senior year, the Class of 2018 Hawkins expressed a desire to play a national schedule.

While suddenly bidding adieu to a significant percentage of their offense may not have been easy, Hawkins coaches and teachers were in support of his decision.

The move did not come without a detour. Hawkins continued to thrive as a hard-slashing 6-foot-4 guard at City Reach United Basketball Academy (New Hampshire).

Mid-way through the year, the program fizzled quicker than an online start-up company. Hawkins then went to The Conrad Academy in Orlando, Fla., where he plied his trade in the talent-rich SIAA conference.

From the moment he got there, Hawkins proved his scoring onslaughts were no chance occurrence. He went off for 28 points during the program’s heated intra-program game against the post-graduate team, knifing through defenders and showcasing his shooting touch.

 Yet on a national prep team that featured a number of high-scoring threats, including heavily-recruited Luguentz Dort (Louisville, Florida, UNLV, UConn, Pitt, Texas A & M, Baylor, Missouri) the coaching staff bred a defender in him.

The onus was on Hawkins to mark the opponent’s top scorer and apply constant, confrontational pressure.

It was a bit of a role reversal for a kid who constantly faced double-teams and box-and-ones during the first three years of his high school career.

“I don’t really like to say ‘I’m this, or I’m that’ because whatever is needed to win I can do,” said Hawkins, who will attend National Top Sports Institute (Pa.) next season.

 “If it is necessary for a win, it doesn’t matter what it is exactly.”

Coming off the bench and shifting his role to lockup man, Hawkins brought a toughness and tenacity for a guard-laden squad which needed a defensive catalyst.

A slew Division-I programs across the country now see the threat Hawkins poses on both sides of the floor.

Rutgers, UMass, Manhattan, Stony Brook, Iona, Siena, Tulane, Towson and others are in active pursuit of Hawkins, who has 14 offers on the table.

“I just visited Iona and Siena and I really like both of them a lot,” Hawkins said. “Iona, they’ve been in the NCAA tournament a bunch of times in the past several years and they know I want to be great. It would be a good fit for me. Siena is close to home and that’s an option as well.”

Hawkins, who plays for the Albany City Rocks, has had a number of people challenge him along the way. Amongst those in Hawkins’ corner has been Josh Wright, the former Syracuse guard who etched a legacy as one of the most prolific scorers in NYS history at Utica Proctor.

“He was always on me and making sure I didn’t take nothing lightly,” said Hawkins of Wright, who is still a staple in local city tournaments and open gyms throughout the area.

“He was at a majority of my high school games. We had a strong bond, for sure.”

Hawkins, who said he’s planning to visit Manhattan next, will continue to work at the same pace.

“There’s people out there who said I couldn’t do it and that just made me work 10 times harder,” said Hawkins. “I get up a lot of shots every day. There’s no days off period. Everyday, I’m getting shots up, I’m in the gym and I’m in the weight room. I’ve worked this hard so there ain’t no slowing it down now.”