With an ever-present smile and an upbeat attitude, Kentucky senior Dominique Hawkins seems well suited for waiting his turn. A turn came in Saturday’s 85-69 victory over South Carolina.
De’Aaron Fox’s ankle injury created a void. Once more, Hawkins filled the vacuum with five points, three rebounds and seven assists.
“I feel (patience) is my personality,” Hawkins said after the game. “Usually, I’m a shy guy, and I always wait my turn.”
He said this dates back to high school when he was big man at Madison Central.
“I had friends in high school who would say, ‘Let’s cut line,’” Hawkins said. “I’d say, ‘Nah. Let’s not do that. Let’s just wait to get the lunch.’ I’ve always been patient.”
Fellow senior Derek Willis lauded Hawkins’ agreeability.
“Dom’s the best guy I’ve ever met in my life,” Willis said. “Probably top one or two guys I’ve ever met.”
Fox’s injury prompted an obvious question. Might Hamidou Diallo, the five-star recruit who joined the UK team a week ago, get a chance to play?
“That’s not even in the cards,” UK Coach John Calipari said.
Hawkins echoed the sentiment.
“In practice, we try to teach him the plays and stuff,” Hawkins said. “But if he doesn’t understand, we just get somebody else.”
Hawkins suggested it’s too early to assess Diallo. “All I know right now is he’s very athletic,” Hawkins said, “and he can get to the rim very well.”
That said, Hawkins added, “It’s hard to just come in a week and know everything. So he has a long way to go.”
Derek Willis arguably had the play of the game: A rise above a poor defender and throw down a one-handed dunk.
“Best dunk since he’s been here,” Hawkins said.
Willis downplayed the dunk. “It’s just a play that happens when you play basketball,” he said.
But Willis acknowledged that the dunk caused excitement.
“My phone in there (the locker room) was like all buzzing and vibrating,” he said.
On his radio show Wednesday, Calipari volunteered that his news conference performances are just that: performances.
“I use the media,” he said. “I’m not worried about anybody but my players. And anything I give to the media is for a reason. I want them (the players) to read what I’m saying.”
The dissatisfaction or elation Calipari expresses in post-game news conferences? Also premeditated cal-culation.
“When it’s time that we’re really struggling, that’s when I come back and say, ‘We’ll be great; it’s just going to take time,’” he said. “If I know what we are and we could get arrogant, no, you’re not hearing that from me. I’m not giving them that poison. No. No. No. No poison from me if you won a game. I’ll be better after a loss than I’ll ever be after a win.”
Of the current Cats, Calipari said, “I really like this team, and if we stay on this path, we’re going to be really good.”
He really probably meant that. Probably.
South Carolina Coach Frank Martin credits Calipari for helping him advance in the profession. The two are connected by Bob Huggins, a friend of Calipari’s and a former boss of Martin’s.
“Cal’s phenomenal,” Martin said. “Cal’s a friend. His willingness to help me … I’m grateful for people who help others. All Cal does is help others. And he helped me along the way. I have unbelievable respect.”
Calipari and Martin first met as the former tried to recruit one of the latter’s high school players.
“When ‘Hugs’ hired me, Cal immediately let me in, for lack of a better word,” Martin said. “He just helped me get on the NABC Board of Directors. Those are the things that Cal never gets credit for.”
As a high school coach in Miami, Martin encouraged two of his players — Allen Edwards and Gimel Martinez — to think seriously about Kentucky’s recruiting pitch.
“I’ve been in that arena as a fan of Kentucky,” Martin said Thursday of his previous rooting interest, “and it’s Kentucky basketball.”
Florida made none of its 17 three-point shots at South Carolina Wednesday. That ended the Gators’ streak of making at least one three-pointer at 850 games.
UK went into Saturday’s game having made a three-point shot in 993 consecutive games. UNLV also had made a three in 993 consecutive games going into Saturday’s game against Air Force.
By beating South Carolina, UK increased its all-time victory total to 2,222. Of course, that’s more than any other college program.
ESPN set the start time for UK’s game at Florida on Feb. 4. The game will start at 8:15 p.m. ET.… On his radio show last week, Calipari said, “I hate 9 o’clock games.” Two of UK’s next three games have 9 p.m. ET start times: at Tennessee Tuesday and home to Georgia on Jan. 31.