Junior Spotlight: SF Justin Hawkins

Arizona appears to be loaded in the backcourt with the addition of Chris Rodgers and Hassan Adams next year, so it is looking to the junior class of 2003 to fill the wing forward position. Justin Hawkins could be a candidate.

Justin Hawkins spent most of his sophomore year playing in the shadow of Stanford-bound teammate Josh Childress. Childress was a McDonald's All-American and a consensus Top 25 recruit by most recruiting services while Hawkins patiently filled his role as a secondary option for the Mayfair High basketball team.

Now that Childress has moved on to the collegiate level and has even managed to crack Stanford's starting rotation, Justin Hawkins suddenly finds himself being "The Man" for his team.

"At first it was a hard transition," Hawkins said. "Everyone was saying that now that Josh is gone, everything has kind of been put on my back. At first I was trying to be Josh but I had to realize that I'm not Josh and I don't have to do the things he did. I just have to go out and be myself."

Although only a junior, Hawkins is already a physical clone of the wiry Childress. At 6-6 and 190-pounds, Hawkins is the structural equal of Childress and says that their games resemble one another's as well.

"I'm a good shooter from the outside and Josh is a pretty good shooter too," he said. "His mid-range game was better than mine because he was able to shoot off the dribble.

"That's something I'm trying to work on: take one dribble and pull up. That's the one thing that's different between me and him. He didn't like to go inside and he didn't like a lot of contact."

Hawkins says that while the physical similarities are obvious, it's the mental approach that distinguishes them from each other.

"Our bodies are very much alike," he said. "We're both thin and tall but we have different mindsets. I like to go inside a lot and my coaches get mad at me because they want me to stop and pull up but I like to go all the way to the basket."

The aggressive approach used by Hawkins has allowed him to average 17 points and 10 rebounds a game from his small forward position for the 8-5 Mayfair club.

He says that his game resembles that of Orlando Magic forward Tracy McGrady because he likes to make things happen while driving to the rim and because he can also take his man outside and face up to the basket.

"Although I probably can't jump as high as he can," he adds.

Hawkins describes himself as a good shooter from the outside as well as a good, aggressive slasher who likes to cut to the rim as much as possible.

His play has earned the attention of several high profile programs from around the nation and he lists his favorites right now as Arizona, UCLA, New Mexico, Boston College, UConn and Oregon. He also plans to play in this summer's ABCD camp and at the Adidas tournament for the L.A. Rockfish and head coach Dave Benezra.

When trying to decide on where to play college ball, Hawkins says that while he would like to play right away, his decision will come down to something more profound.

"Basically it's coaching," says Hawkins, who is rated as the fifth best small forward by PrepWestHoops. "I want to go to a place where I'm going to learn and where I'm going to be able to grow. Those two things plus academics are what I'm looking for."

The 16-year-old Hawkins made an unofficial visit to Tucson about a month ago and liked what he saw from the coaching staff and said that he admires the way things are run at Arizona.

"I liked Lute Olson," he said. "His tradition...he just gets a lot out of his players and he makes his players work hard."

Though he has plenty of time to make the decision of where he'll play college basketball, Hawkins says his more immediate concerns are getting bigger and stronger without affecting his quickness.

"I'd like to gain more weight but not too much because then it will slow me down." he said.

Justin Hawkins has the size and athleticism that every school covets in a recruit. However, what stands out about his situation and Arizona's is the fact that the Wildcats are able to offer immediate playing time to players of Hawkins' position and skill level. If, of course, they are willing to come to Tucson.

"I don't want to be too far away," Hawkins said. "I'd like to be close to home."

It's only an hour flight from John Wayne Airport in Anaheim to Tucson.

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