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April 10, 2013RICHMOND, Ky. - For four weeks, Dominique Hawkins bit his tongue.
The Madison Central point guard committed on Wednesday to play his college basketball at Kentucky, 29 days after John Calipari made him a scholarship offer and asked him to keep it under his hat until the Wildcats' 2013-14 roster was more settled.
"It was so hard to keep inside, because people were asking me, 'Has Kentucky offered? Why haven't they?'" Hawkins said Wednesday after his announcement at the Madison Central gym. "And I'm like, 'I don't know, I'm just trying to find out why they haven't either.' It was hard. I had to bite my lip every time somebody talked to me about it."
Hawkins told only his mother and his girlfriend, he said, and they kept his secret safe. So did Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus, a lifelong Kentucky fan who admitted it was a challenge to keep from broadcasting the news.
The Cat's out of the bag now, and Hawkins couldn't be happier.
The 6-foot-1 point guard - a state champion with the Indians and Kentucky's Mr. Basketball - chose the Wildcats over Western Kentucky (his probable choice, he said, if Calipari hadn't offered a scholarship), Morehead State, Murray State, Purdue, South Carolina and Tennessee Tech, among others.
"It's the biggest relief," Hawkins said.
He adds to an already-stacked recruiting class ranked the nation's best in 2013. Hawkins is the eighth player to sign with or commit to Kentucky, joining six McDonald's All-Americans in Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee along with another in-state prospect, Bullitt East's Derek Willis.
Kentucky could have as many as six returning scholarship players in Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer, Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood.
That would give the Wildcats 14 scholarship players, one more than the NCAA maximum. Noel, who sat out the end of Kentucky's season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, is projected as a top pick in June's NBA Draft if he opts to enter it. Polson, who came to UK as a walk-on, could return to that status.
And Kentucky still might not be finished recruiting, given that it's still in pursuit of the nation's No. 1 prospect, small forward Andrew Wiggins.
Hawkins is good at keeping secrets, but he insists he's not sitting on any inside information about Wiggins.
"This Wiggins stuff, I don't know, so I'm not going to answer any of that," Hawkins said.
Whether or not Wiggins signs on, Hawkins will be one of the least-heralded members of Kentucky's much-hyped recruiting class. He's a three-star ranked outside the Rivals150.
But Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus said Hawkins won't be intimidated by talent - he scored 29 points this season in a game against the Harrison twins - and that he'll compete for playing time at Kentucky.
"I know there's people out there saying, 'Well, he can not play at UK,'" Feldhaus said. "But there (were) people his freshman year when I said that he would have a chance to be Mr. Basketball, they thought I was crazy then, too. Those people, I think they understand what I'm talking about now. I wouldn't put anything past him."
He already has achieved more than Hawkins himself thought possible.
Hawkins admitted on Wednesday that two or three months ago, he never thought he'd have the chance to play for the Wildcats, the team he grew up rooting for. But an explosive run through the state tournament - often with Calipari watching from the baseline - changed everything.
Hawkins struggled in first halves, then battled back to dominate fourth quarters. Calipari, who'd often lamented his team's lack of toughness and ability to move on from bad plays, sat and saw a point guard who excelled in both areas.
The week after that Sweet 16 title run, Calipari offered a scholarship.
"It was kind of like, I think at first, that maybe he was doing us a favor (in recruiting Hawkins)," Feldhaus said. "But after watching Dominique play, and I know (Calipari has) said this, it's more like we're doing him a favor now."
Hawkins said he got a sense Calipari was looking for "a leader at point guard," and a player who could provide some stability by remaining in the program for multiple years.
"I'm definitely not a one-year talent guy, go straight to the NBA," Hawkins said. "I feel like I've got to keep working for a couple years if I get a chance to go to the NBA. But I know I can play (as) well as any other guy if I just work hard and keep up my great defense and play tremendous offense for the team and do whatever I got to do."
Hawkins grew up idolizing Keith Bogans and Tayshaun Prince - he'd go outside after watching a Prince dunk, he said, and try to replicate it - and watching his cousin, Marquis Estill, play for the Wildcats.
Estill now is on Calipari's staff, and Hawkins said his cousin put in a few good words for him to pique Calipari's interest.
The ultimate decision on whether or not to offer a scholarship went to Calipari. He did, and Hawkins was ecstatic.
Though he had to wait a while to go public, he had little private doubt that he'd be a Cat.
"I had a little thinking to do, because I really did like Western," Hawkins said. "They've been really recruiting me hard. That's the best recruiting that they probably ever did on a kid, and I appreciate what they did. But once Kentucky came in, it's kind of a no-brainer I was going to go there, though."
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