Hawkins at home with Hawks
In his final year of college athletic eligibility, Tomaul Hawkins finally believes he has fallen into the right place at the right time. After three strong seasons in imperfect situations, Hawkins has settled into what he believes is a great posi...
In his final year of college athletic eligibility, Tomaul Hawkins finally believes he has fallen into the right place at the right time.
After three strong seasons in imperfect situations, Hawkins has settled into what he believes is a great position with the Dickinson State men's basketball team.
He loves the program, and most importantly, he gets along with coach Ty Orton.
"He's more than a coach, he's more like a mentor," said the 21-year-old Hawkins. "He makes sure everybody graduates and goes to class. I respect that a lot more than a coach who just says go out there and play. He cares a lot about his players. That was a big part in me coming here."
The search for a caring and trustworthy coach sent Hawkins to DSU from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, an NCAA Division II school just 45 minutes from his mother's house in Aurora, Colo.
Hawkins was one of the first players contacted by Orton when his time was done at Otero Junior College in LaJunta, Colo. Orton had coached against Hawkins while at McCook (Neb.) Community College and made him a priority recruit when he was hired at DSU in April 2007.
Instead, Hawkins chose UCCS so he could be closer to home and have a chance to play at the highest possible level.
He now has many regrets about that decision.
"It wasn't a good experience, I was miserable," Hawkins said. "If you go to school for a sport, the sport's not everything, you're still a student. But it does affect you a lot because you spend so much time. You go to practice every day, you lift weights, you shoot, all this extra stuff. When you feel like there's no dedication besides you. I felt coaches just let us be.
"I didn't feel like it was a program that fit me. That's why I ended up transferring here."
Hawkins averaged 12.8 points and 3.9 rebounds last season for UCCS. But, after 17 games, he was essentially kicked off the team by coach Russ Caton. Hawkins said he still doesn't understand what he did to rub the coach the wrong way but left the team anyway.
"I didn't even know what happened," Hawkins said. "I talked to the athletic director about it and he said he was disappointed."
Orton hasn't been the least bit disappointed in Hawkins this season.
The 6-foot-4 forward is averaging 10.8 points and 3.9 rebounds a game and is one of the DAC's defensive statistical leaders while shooting 44 percent from the field and 76 percent from the free-throw line.
The addition of Hawkins is one of the many reasons the Blue Hawks have made a turnaround from one of the Dakota Athletic Conference's bottom-tier teams into a legitimate contender for a conference title.
"He's really persevered through a lot of things," Orton said. "Him coming up here was a great asset to us just because he's the type of kid he is. He's just a great kid. He always has a smile on his face. He's a great competitor. He really brought a lot to the team."
One reason Hawkins believes he's doing well at DSU on and off the basketball court is because he has bought into Orton's system.
Hawkins couldn't be a better fit for the defensive-minded Blue Hawks. His long arms have allowed him to block 19 shots and grab 35 steals this season.
"I actually pride myself a little bit more on defense," Hawkins said. "Anybody can go off on any night, any college basketball player. Anybody can score and shoot a lot, but not everybody can play solid defense."
Hawkins' defensive attitude played out well in the Blue Hawks' 64-50 victory over Valley City State on Wednesday when he scored a team-high 15 points, while adding 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals as the team's primary on-ball defender.
The senior knows he must keep up his defensive intensity if the Blue Hawks hope to continue their winning ways.
"The better our defense does, the more our offense picks up," Hawkins said. "We've just got to continue playing solid defense."
The Blue Hawks' system is based on a solid defensive effort.
Orton believes that is why Hawkins' persona has fit so well into DSU's plans.
"He wants to be as good as he can be and he's taking advantage of the second chance he's been given," Orton said.