Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 10:46 pm / Updated at 12:01 am
basketball
Husker freshman Nathan Hawkins goes from DNP to A-OK
The Citadel at Nebraska
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Radio: 1110 AM KFAB

LINCOLN — Nathan Hawkins has gone from off the radar with the Nebraska men's basketball team to the middle of the action.

The true freshman from suburban Dallas missed the first six games with a deep bone bruise in his foot, then didn't play the next two by coach's decision. In other words, he was sidelined for 25 percent of the season.

That led to questions externally about the 6-foot-5 guard sitting out as a redshirt. But that wasn't the discussion internally.

“I had no intention of redshirting when I got here,” Hawkins said Wednesday night. “We had individual meetings before the season and coach Miles told me he saw me getting minutes.”

After the injury — to the same foot Hawkins broke in eighth grade and again in 12th — Miles asked if he wanted to sit out.

“I didn't want to,” Hawkins said. “He said, 'Good, because I don't want you to redshirt, either.' He had plans to play me from the beginning.”

Hawkins' first action was 11 minutes at Creighton in which he went scoreless but had two rebounds and an assist. He played 17 minutes Saturday against Arkansas State, scoring six points on 2 of 4 shooting and adding three rebounds.

What is Miles' assessment of the latest addition to the playing rotation?

“He's a pain,” the coach joked. “Really, I like him. I think he knows how to play. I like that about him.

“He does need to guard the ball,” to which Hawkins interjected, “Don't write that down. Nothing negative.”

Miles continued: “He's a good big guard who knows how to read screens. He's a good motion offense player. You feel like you can put him in and he'll make good decisions. And that's really important in what we do.”

Hawkins got to know Miles and Husker assistant Craig Smith when the two coaches were at Colorado State and began following him.

When Miles got the Nebraska job, the interest carried over in Hawkins, who started four years at Rowlett High School and was a three-time first-team all-district pick.

“I committed on my unofficial visit here,” he said. “They told me I had a scholarship offer and that I could go home and think about it. I told them I didn't need to think about it.”

Nebraska won out over Texas-Arlington, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

In high school, Hawkins was listed among the top 15 seniors in Texas, and was a Rivals.com pick as one of the nation's top 20 deep shooters. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a senior, and scored 1,255 points in his career.

“I think Coach brought me here to be a scorer and a playmaker,” Hawkins said. “And I can use my size on the defensive side to help with rebounding because I can guard smaller guys.”

The transition to the college game, despite missing the first eight contests, has been smooth.

“Practices are harder, and guys are bigger and stronger,” Hawkins said. “But gamewise I was surprised at how easy it came. It wasn't that difficult a transition.”

The biggest adjustment for Hawkins and roommate Tai Webster from New Zealand has been dealing with snow and cold weather.

“I was in the car with Tai yesterday,” Hawkins said, “and he said, 'This snow wasn't that bad.' I said, 'Tai, this is not the only snow we'll get.' And he says, 'There's going to be more?'

“So I tweeted that the sight of snow melting is a beautiful thing.”

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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