Former Illinois basketball forward Coleman Hawkins makes smart financial decision

It was a surprising turn of events Wednesday night when a former Illinois State basketball player returned to college basketball.

The Illini roster is slowly taking shape. Illinois had only two players remaining from the 2023-24 season. Those two players are joined by four rookies and five new additions from the transfer portal.

If you count the home games, that's 11 scholarships. With two scholarships on offer, I wouldn't be surprised if Brad Underwood and the Illinois coaching staff went out and signed another player out of the transfer portal.

One transfer portal player the Illini cannot sign is Coleman Hawkins. On April 30, Hawkins decided to enter the NBA Draft and also the transfer portal. In the post, he mentioned that he was determined to stay in the NBA Draft process. He also retweeted his post and said, “Relax lol.” That post has since been deleted.

Exactly one month later, Hawkins has decided to withdraw his name from the transfer portal. Normally, that would be music to the ears of Illinois fans, but not in this case. According to Shams Charania, NBA insider for The Athletic, Hawkins is withdrawing his name from the NBA draft process and will be moving on to a new program.

This is the worst-case scenario for the Illinois basketball program. Not only will Hawkins not be going to the NBA, he won't be coming back to Champaign. He's moving on to another program, and there's a real chance the Illini will have to play him next season.

When I heard the news on Wednesday night, I was devastated, I'm not going to lie. Why would Hawkins do this to the Orange and Blue? A team that has helped develop and build this kid's game to the point where he is being seriously considered by the NBA.

Time passed and honestly, at this point in the process, I feel like it's best for both sides. Hawkins wants to get paid and the best way to do that is to return to college and have teams vie for his services.

Hawkins will earn more in college this season than he did in the NBA. He was projected to make a salary in the 50s at best in the 2024 NBA Draft. The No. 49 player selected in the 2023 NBA Draft was Emoni Bates. He earned $559,782 in the 2023-24 season.

It's just speculation, but I would say that returning to college was probably not a developmental thing for Hawkins. Do you really think you're going to improve as an NBA player by playing college basketball? He would develop more in the G-League than in the college game. So in my eyes, this was clearly a financial move.

On the Illinois side, the program has been running without him for about a month now. Again, this is just speculation, but Underwood and Hawkins likely spoke when he declared for the NBA Draft. I assume the two already knew what was going on and fans were kept in the dark.

Illinois added a wealth of frontcourt talent. Morez Johnson Jr. is a top-30 recruit in the class of 2024, so he'll start. Carey Booth and Ben Humrichous are both four-star transfer portal players, so there's plenty of playing time there and at least one will start. You don't go out and get that kind of talent without knowing Hawkins isn't coming back to Illinois.

So, at the end of the day, it will be strange to see Hawkins play for another team. He stayed with the Orange and Blue for four years. He was a great four years, too. Thanks for everything, Hawk, and good luck in the future. When we play you in 2024-25, let the boos shower you like the fans should.

Projected Illinois basketball roster with the signing of Kasparas Jakucionis. dark. Next. Projected Illinois basketball roster with the signing of Kasparas Jakucionis

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