Hawkins getting the hang of Division I college basketball

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Hawkins getting the hang of Division I college basketball

Nick Buzzelli, Sports Editor

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Coming into the 2012-13 campaign, Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole anticipated that it would take time for freshman Stephen Hawkins to learn the ins and outs of college basketball.

However, because of a slew of injuries that have plagued the Colonials this season, the 6-9 forward has had to grasp the game at a much quicker pace.

“It’s going to be an interesting situation for him being the only freshman and having 12 other guys who have played some type of college basketball before,” Toole said at the beginning of the season. “It’s going to be an adjustment but I think he’s done a good job with approaching things the right way, learning how to compete, learning how to continue to work, regardless of situation or fatigue.”

Although the Colonials were dealt a curveball at the beginning of the year after redshirt senior Lijah Thompson suffered a season-ending injury prior to the first game, an opportunity to split playing time down low with junior Mike McFadden arose, and Hawkins has taken full advantage of it.

Throughout the first 15 matches of the season, the Gary, Indiana native was on the floor for nearly 10 minutes a contest, but since RMU’s game at Fairleigh Dickinson on January 10, Hawkins has been averaging seven more minutes per outing.

“I’m getting used to the formula both offensively and defensively. I’m definitely [more confident],” said Hawkins, who is majoring in finance. “It’s more mental [trying to adjust to the game] because it’s harder memorizing so many plays.”

Karvel Anderson, who was Hawkins’ road trip roommate for the first half of the season, believes that the Bowman Academy product has grown immensely during his time in the program.

“Of course [I’m proud of him], I represent anything Indiana,” said Anderson, whose stomping grounds of Elkhart, Indiana is 80 miles east of Hawkins’hometown. “Sometimes being a freshman, especially being the only freshman on this type of squad at this type of program, can get overwhelming at times, but he has handled it very well and he’s grown, and matured as a player, and as an individual. He has a lot of potential and I’m glad to see that he’s working towards it.”

Toole said that Hawkins, who is one of only two Colonials who haven’t missed a contest this season,  has made strides in advancing his game since stepping foot on campus.

“Really from the speed of the game, I think that’s the biggest thing that he’s starting to figure out,” added the third year head coach. “He’s also starting to figure out that he’s tall and he’s doing a really nice job of using his lengh to be able to not only block shots, but make shots difficult and then really fighting to get in there to rebound.”

Teammate Lucky Jones believes that as long as Hawkins continues to improve upon his weaknesses, he’ll be successful at the Division I level.

“He came a very long way,” the sophomore forward said. “We all still have a lot of improving to do, and as long as he’s staying around us, enjoying himself around the team, focusing on the plays, focusing on the defensive formulas, he’ll be fine.”

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