RICHMOND — Dominique Hawkins proved during last month's Sweet Sixteen that he could play basketball at a high level.
In the weeks that followed, Hawkins proved he could keep a secret.
The Madison Central senior announced his commitment to the University of Kentucky on Wednesday morning.
Later, he said UK Coach John Calipari had offered him a scholarship during Hawkins' March 12 visit to Lexington — two days after he led the Indians to their first state championship.
So as the Cats' roster turned over, Hawkins waited patiently for UK to give him the go signal on an announcement.
"It was hard," he said. "I had to bite my lip every time somebody talked to me about it."
The lifelong UK fan told only two people — his mother and his girlfriend — that he had received the coveted scholarship offer.
"That's it," he said. "I could trust them, so that's the only two I told."
Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. was in the room when Calipari offered Hawkins the scholarship, so he also knew.
Feldhaus kept quiet, too.
"Being a lifelong Kentucky fan, you don't know how hard that was for me to not say anything," he said.
Feldhaus acknowledged that he was "frustrated" with the lack of interest from UK and Louisville just a couple of months ago.
Rick Pitino offered a preferred walk-on spot, but that was never a realistic option. Kentucky's coaches hadn't even seen him play.
UK assistant Orlando Antigua attended one of Madison Central's practices the weekend before the 11th Region Tournament, but no one from UK's staff made it to the region tournament in Richmond.
Calipari and Antigua were courtside for Madison Central's Sweet Sixteen opener in Rupp Arena. Calipari returned for the quarterfinals and the semis, and Antigua was there for all four games.
What might have started as a courtesy look from the UK coach quickly turned into legitimate interest.
"I think it was more of a feel-good story. A good Kentucky kid — to give him a scholarship," Feldhaus said. "At first, it was maybe he was doing us a favor. But after watching Dominique play — and I know he's said this — it's more like we're doing him a favor."
Two days after Madison Central defeated Ballard in the Sweet Sixteen finals, Calipari invited the entire Indians squad to Lexington.
During that visit, Cal summoned Hawkins and Feldhaus into his office.
"He said, 'Do you know what you're in for?' That's when I knew he gave me a scholarship," Hawkins said. "I said, 'Yeah, I know what I'm in for.'"
The 6-foot-1 combo guard joins a recruiting class that includes six McDonald's All-Americans and Bullitt East standout Derek Willis.
Next season's practices will be fierce, and playing time will be hard to come by on a squad with so much talent.
Feldhaus pointed out that his star player scored 29 points in a game against highly touted UK signees Andrew and Aaron Harrison in the second game of the season.
Hawkins clearly isn't afraid of the competition.
"I'm going to compete. Compete as hard as I can," he said. "Whatever Coach Cal wants me to do, I'm going to do it. I'm definitely a coachable kid. ... Anything that I can do for the team, to help them, I'm going to just do it."
Unlike many of his fellow commitments, Hawkins harbors no dreams of becoming a one-and-done player at Kentucky. He's ranked by most recruiting services as a three-star recruit, and 24/7 Sports considers him the No. 173 overall prospect in the class.
What Hawkins will provide is some continuity for a program that has sent nearly a dozen freshmen to the NBA Draft since Calipari arrived four years ago.
The UK coach promised at the end of this past season that he would never again get caught with a short bench.
Hawkins is projected as a four-year player, and he's fine with that.
"I think that's what he was looking for," Hawkins said.
For a kid who grew up wearing blue and white, Wednesday's ceremony was a dream come true.
Hawkins said he idolized past Wildcats Keith Bogans and Tayshaun Prince. He recalled running outside to try to replicate Prince's dunks on his lowered hoop.
Next fall, he'll follow in their footsteps.
"It hasn't sunk in yet, to be honest," he said. "It really hasn't."
Ben Roberts: (859) 321-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: UKrecruiting.bloginky.com.