The all-eyes-on-you scrutiny that comes with Kentucky basketball? It's been happening for weeks even though UK doesn't play its first game for almost a month.
"When you walk into class, people are excited because we're basketball players," freshman Dominique Hawkins said. "Showing us a lot more attention."
This attention does not include a spontaneous ovation. Not as of early September, anyway.
"No, they don't break out into applause," Hawkins said with a chuckle. "They'll stare you down, and then once they recognize you, they're like, 'Are you Dominique Hawkins?' or something like that."
Once that's confirmed, "They'll want autographs or pictures or anything like that," he said.
Hawkins, a cousin of former UK big man Marquis Estill, is no stranger to public recognition. In leading Madison Central to the state championship last spring, he was named Most Valuable Player of the Sweet 16 and Kentucky's Mr. Basketball.
But to play for UK brings a whole new level of fame.
"It's so different," Hawkins said. "And you're meeting different people, and they see you as a celebrity. Kentucky basketball is pretty big."
Kentucky basketball is so big that Hawkins put off recruiting interest by such Division I programs as South Carolina and Tennessee. "Then there was another big one I can't remember," he said. "... Waiting for Kentucky to give me an answer, yes or no."
So big that some rival recruiters advised Hawkins to sign with UK.
"Like Morehead (State) and Western (Kentucky)," he said. "They were, like, 'We know Kentucky is a great school, so go ahead and go there.'"
The idea of a rival recruiter recommending a prospect to go to Kentucky sounded stunning. Hawkins offered a clarification.
"They didn't actually tell me to go there," he said. "They probably knew I was going to pick Kentucky, so they gave me some ideas I should pick (UK)."
Hawkins was named after Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. He aspires to NBA heights. To ask if recruiters told him he was good enough to play for Kentucky brings a quick response.
"They definitely said I was good enough," he said.
NBA aspirations played no small part in Hawkins committing to Kentucky, where he figures to annually compete against some top-drawer point guards for playing time.
"To be honest, I just wanted to go to a school I'll be seen at," he said. "I'm a kid that loves basketball, and I'm trying to play basketball at the next level, too. ...
"It's the best program in college basketball, I feel like. Plus, I'm going to be playing against the best in practice, and it's going to make me better."
Hawkins said he had held his own in workouts against the celebrated Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron.
"No, I'm not getting dunked on," he said with a smile. "I'm able to hang in there. You can ask the twins how good I've been doing going up against them. ...
"They have the size, but I have the quickness on them. That's what keeps me in front of them on defense."
Meet the cats
This is the 13th in a series of stories on each of the 16 UK men's basketball players leading up to Big Blue Madness on Oct. 18. Coming Tuesday: Sam Malone
Uniform number: 25
Height, weight: 6-0, 193
Hometown: Richmond, Ky.
High school: Madison Central