Much has been made by the Coug faithful in the past two weeks about the cloudy (to put it delicately) departure of swing forward Tanner Lancona. There have been some interesting conversations happening among Cougar message boards, possibly pitting Tanner’s father against the WSU coaching staff and their handling of the situation, at least in cyber-space.
The most recent news with Lancona is that Kansas State is now one of four schools that he’s interested in after Bruce Weber came calling for an in-house visit this past weekend, with another school being Colorado State. Admittedly, I was not for the move at the time and I’m still not what you would call “overjoyed” as a fan that it went down, especially looking at who has come screaming after him, thinking he can make an impact on their team (hint a couple of solid, NCAA Tournament caliber schools). But at some point it’s just time to move on.
The fact is that Josh Hawkinson becomes the big man of the hour and our coaches felt compelled to go in another direction for whatever reason. I have some minor skepticism towards Hawkinson’s highlights and the level of opposition that he faced (and I can’t figure out why such a talent only has a single three minute cut up reel on youtube), but despite that all indications are that he could be a real player.
Recently, CF.C had this piece on the young big kid, pointing out his pure big-man abilities and with high praise for his upside. In the article, Shorewood assistant basketball coach (and ex-NBA/NFL/MLB beat-writer) Steve Kelley analyzed Hawkinson this way:
He’s got the potential to be a big-time center in the Pac-12. He’s good enough right now that he could’ve started for the UW this past season… He has enough skills to be a major contributor at a BCS school, there’s no doubt in my mind.
At 6’10”, 240 lbs it’s conceivable that in a couple years he could remind us of the big Aussie Aron Baynes with his size and footwork abilities, except he has a better perimeter jumper. I have a tough time believing he was going to beat out Aziz N’Diaye at Washington though, especially considering N’Diaye was considered one of the Pac-12’s best big men for much of the season. With this bio behind him, I’m really not sure how much stock I put into the article that says any high school big man was “better” than that. Still, there is positive to be taken away.
What I don’t like about Hawkinson in his highlight tape is that he consistently takes a tough shot, even when the shot should be relatively easy. Also he doesn’t have the vertical I would like to see out of 6’10” kid to rise above the great jumpers that the Pac-12 possesses at the rim. There are a couple times he barely gets above the rim and a couple more where he’s laying it up like he’s a foot shorter than he is. In this conference (and most conferences really) there are a lot of 6’6″ players that can guard a kid like that, so I hope the young man is working on his jumps and getting in the weight room.
I do like that he’s a productive scorer in high school at around 20 per, but he really should’ve scored a couple more on a nightly basis, especially against the Washington talent and size level. I also like his passing abilities and re-post position relative to the basket. But again, he loves to finish away from the cup and rarely with his back to the basket does he actually attack the smaller defender. He does get around him with a quick move fairly often, but then gets moved on any kind of contact, again making the shot more difficult than it should be. Going back to the Baynes comparison, that was why he was so successful, using his size to move the defender where he wanted and then fending the defender off with hips and elbows as he went to the bucket. While Baynes was slower, he rarely got knocked off balance and always seemed to take the shot he wanted, not the shot the defender wanted him to take.
It’s not something that can’t be improved though. The potential is there, especially if he adds 10-15 lbs, to be a starter at this level. So Hawkinson’s value to Ken Bone is two-fold; first on the court as the “talented” and large center that the Cougs lack currently, and secondly as the now lone big man that Bone decided to roll the dice with. We’ll see how it pays off, but one thing is for sure, Bone is trying to save a job right now and he feels he’s made the correct decision for the basketball team. Hopefully, he’s right.