Shoreline native and WSU forward Josh Hawkinson has blossomed under coach Ernie Kent. After averaging 14.7 points and 10.8 rebounds last year, Hawkinson is averaging 16.9 points and 10.7 rebounds this season for the Cougars.
Josh Hawkinson first caught Ernie Kent’s eye while Kent was still a basketball analyst for the Pac-12 Networks.
This was the year before Kent was hired as basketball coach at Washington State in 2014, and even though Hawkinson was only a freshman center who played sparingly at the time, he stood out to Kent whenever the former coach watched the Cougars at practice or shootaround.
“I always thought, ‘That’s a guy who’s been used wrong.’ … I saw a guy who wasn’t used much, but I saw his skillset. I saw him knocking down threes, he had a gangly body with a jump hook that was automatic. I saw some toughness in him,” Kent said. “He reminded me of the European stretch four man. That four man has to be able to rebound, score inside, stretch the floor and shoot the three.”
Washington @ Washington State, noon, Pac-12 Networks
When Kent took the WSU coaching job, he set out to transform Hawkinson from center into stretch four. In his first season playing for Kent, Hawkinson shed more than 15 pounds and gained a reputation as a versatile inside-out player with a natural shooting touch.
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Hawkinson finished his sophomore season averaging 14.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and set a WSU season record with 334 total rebounds.
This year, as the Cougars (9-5 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) prepare to host the Huskies (10-4, 2-0) at Beasley Coliseum on Saturday, Hawkinson has reprised his role as WSU’s double-double machine.
Hawkinson recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Cougars’ 85-78 win over 25th-ranked UCLA last week to tie the school record with his ninth consecutive double-double. He’s averaging 16.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game this season.
Rebounding is a huge part of Hawkinson’s game, and it’s something the junior from Shoreline takes pride in.
“I think it’s always come pretty natural to me,” said Hawkinson, who adds that his basketball-coach father, Nels, constantly stressed the importance of rebounding when he was growing up. “That’s something that’s always been ingrained in my game. You have a better chance of winning if you can get second-chance points off the offensive glass.
“Rebounding is not exactly the most flashy thing, but it’s something I really enjoy doing.”
Hawkinson has makes it a point to study trajectories and take mental notes on how a ball comes off the rim, and how different players’ shots might bounce off the rim differently.
“It’s just practicing, seeing the way my teammates shoot, whether they have a high arc, or if someone shoots a three, knowing that it bounces wider,” Hawkinson said. “All those little things contribute to maybe an extra one or two rebounds here and there.”
Hawkinson’s chemistry with point guard Ike Iroegbu is evident on the court, and much of that has to do with the amount of time the two juniors have spent together over the years practicing shooting and rebounding.
“He’s been my best friend since freshman year, and when I’m in the gym with Ike, I have a pretty good idea of where his shots are going to go,” Hawkinson said. “So maybe that gives me a little extra advantage.”
This past offseason, Hawkinson also paid particular attention to building his endurance to maintain his shooting accuracy late in games.
“He shot the ball well early last year, but as the season wore on and he started playing more minutes, he didn’t shoot the three ball as well,” Kent said. “His strength and conditioning has allowed him to be more consistent with his three. We got his body stronger and his conditioning better.”
The work is paying off. Hawkinson has already made more three-pointers (8) through the first half of this season than he managed all last year (7). He’s shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc compared to 20 percent last season,
Combine the improved long-range shooting with general accuracy and the lethal rebounding, and Hawkinson can be tough to stop.
“Hawkinson just continues to amaze me,” Kent said.