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29 Oct 2013

NU freshman Hawkins doesn’t plan to redshirt

NU freshman Hawkins doesn’t plan to redshirt

Originally posted on www.journalstar.com by Brian Rosenthal

Nathan Hawkins didn’t want to redshirt this season, and it sounds like the Nebraska true freshman might get his wish.

At least, Hawkins liked what he heard when he met individually with basketball coach Tim Miles last week.

“Coach has told me he sees me getting minutes in multiple positions,” said Hawkins, a 6-foot-5, 198-pound guard from Garland, Texas. “Right now, he’s got me running the 1, 2 and 3. He’s told me if I keep working hard and staying focused, he’s going to see me playing for sure.”

Redshirt or no, Hawkins can play in Sunday’s home scrimmage with South Dakota State. It’s closed to the public and media, and results and statistics can’t officially be made public, per NCAA rules.

But it’s a chance for Hawkins, one of seven new faces in the Huskers’ lineup, to show what he can bring, particularly on offense.

“I can score, but I also see the floor really well,” Hawkins said. “I know the offenses really well. I can see things before they happen, so I know what’s going on.

“Defensively, for someone my size, I’m a pretty good defender. I’m quick for my size but I’m also strong, so I can guard multiple positions and crash the boards. I do whatever coach tells me to.”

Hawkins, who also played AAU basketball for the Dallas Mustangs, averaged 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds at Rowlett High School his senior season, when Hawkins said he played primarily inside because his team lacked big men.

“I was an undersized five, but I played,” Hawkins said. “If we have to, I’m sure Coach would stick me at the four, and I’ll bang with some of the bigger guys.”

Miles said Hawkins comes from an athletic-minded family — his sister plays volleyball at Memphis, and his father coaches basketball — and that he has a good mind for the game.

“Nathan is a young guy who really has a high intelligence, and especially a high basketball IQ,” Miles said. “He just sees the game in a really good manner. He’s one of those guys, you classify him as a player. He reads screens, plays well without the ball.

“When he’s not passing the ball behind his back, he’s a real good passer.”

Hawkins missed a week of practice because of a concussion but has passed concussion tests, clearing his return to practice.

A Terran Petteway elbow was to blame for the injury, Hawkins said. Petteway was driving the middle, Hawkins moved over to help, and Petteway swung the ball over the top, making contact with Hawkins’ head in the process.

“Everything was just all blurry,” Hawkins said. “Coach was like, ‘Are you all right, Nate?’ and I’m like, ‘I can’t see you.’”

That wasn’t the only injury Nebraska has endured in practices that started Sept. 27. Freshman guard Tai Webster (ankle) and junior forward Leslee Smith (knee, hamstring) have returned “full-go,” Miles said, but junior forward Walter Pitchford has a nagging shoulder problem that could limit him or hold him out entirely of Sunday’s scrimmage.

The injuries aren’t ideal, but unlike last season, this team has the depth — albeit inexperienced depth — to try to counter such setbacks.

“We’re a lot deeper, this team,” Hawkins said. “Last year, they had to settle for a lot of tough shots. Like Ray (Gallegos), Ray is a great shooter, but he had to shoot a lot coming hard off screens. That’s because they didn’t have a lot of penetration, and this year we have number of guards who can penetrate, get in the lane, draw the defense and then kick.”

Hawkins is one of those players, another reason he’ll likely see minutes this season. Plus, Miles said, with more fouls on guards likely to result from this season’s emphasis on hand checks, he’s expecting to need many guards, and at a variety of positions.

Areas of needed improvement for Hawkins? He says he’s still adjusting to the physicality and speed of the game, and working on taking better care of the basketball.

“I knew it was going to be a lot more work than high school was, so I prepared myself for that,” Hawkins said. “It’s going good. I’m in the gym a lot. And coaches, they’re always looking out for us.”

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