UConn sophomore Jordan Hawkins will enter the 2023 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility, he told Malaika Andrews on ESPN’s “NBA Today” on Friday.
“Hearing my name called on draft night will be a blessing,” Hawkins said. “I’ve worked so hard for it, me and my dad, we’ve been through so much.
“When I first stepped on campus at Storrs, I was small, only 160 pounds. I didn’t know college sports. Coach. [Dan] Hurley threw me into the fire. He guided me through it. It means the world to me to have him, to have this opportunity. He told me one more year I need to improve my game, make a name for myself. What we have done together as a team is amazing.”
Hawkins, the No. 15 prospect in ESPN’s draft projections, was named first-team All-Big East after a breakout season in which he averaged 16.2 points in 29.4 minutes per game and shot 38.8% from 3.
He helped catapult UConn to a national championship with a stunning run through the NCAA Tournament where he made 21-for-42 3-pointers as the Huskies won all six games by double digits. Hawkins had 16 points in the championship game against San Diego State while playing with a stomach bug during the Final Four.
“I had the highest expectations for us as a team,” Hawkins said. “We have a great team coming back. Coach Hurley always says big-time players come up in March. I see myself as a big-time player. I had to make that jump. My teammates did the same. We did a hell of a job on both ends. They were amazing. was.
“The last few days have been crazy. We’re back on campus, the whole school is waiting for us. I haven’t had much time to sleep. It’s been a crazy 36 hours. It still doesn’t feel real.”
Hawkins has an NBA-ready skill set as one of the best shooters in this draft class, showing elite range, footwork and body control to run off screens, get off the dribble or get up behind the dribble handoff with a quick release. He has made strides this season with his defense, passing and shot creation, areas where scouts want to see growth.
“Shooting is my superpower,” Hawkins said. “There are a lot of ball-dominant guys in the NBA who can make themselves [shot]. I can be a knockdown shooter and play an important role right now. Over time, I can develop and become a bigger part of the rotation, because I know I’m more than just a shooter. There is more to my game, but I have to prove it to people.”
Born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Hawkins was named his state’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at DeMatha Catholic. LSU star Angel Reese is his cousin, and he also won a national championship this week.
“I remember us being kids in D.C., going around the memorial, playing basketball in the kitchen,” Hawkins said. “It’s crazy to see both of our families in this state. It’s amazing.”
The NBA draft combine will be held May 15-21 in Chicago, and the draft will take place June 22 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.