Rumors circulated late last season that Jeff Hawkins would transfer to NCAA Div. II Emporia State in the hopes of garnering lots of playing time.
Hawkins, Kansas University's happy reserve point guard from Kansas City, Kan., couldn't -- and still can't -- understand where such gossip comes from.
"I love KU. I love it here," Hawkins said emphatically, indicating he was just as happy scoring 19 points in 23 minutes against TCU as playing four minutes or less in 12 of the team's final 13 contests.
"It's not about playing time. I like the family atmosphere. I wouldn't want to leave those guys. It's like asking me if I would want to go live with another family? Of course not. I wouldn't trade that for anything. It's why I came here."
Hawkins' status on KU's team was put in jeopardy during this preseason, and not because of any transfer talk. He was suspended by coach Bill Self from Aug. 23 to Sept. 27.
Why was he suspended?
To this date, he will only say he wasn't as positive as he needed to be in the past, and the threat of being kicked off the team for good has changed him for the better.
"It had a pretty big effect on me. It's made me a lot stronger," the former Kansas City Sumner all-stater said. "In a way I'm happy it happened. It's opened my eyes a lot."
The suspension strengthened lines of communication with family members.
"I expected them to be upset with me. They were real supportive," Hawkins said of his parents. "They wanted me back on the team as much as I wanted to be back. They talked to me a lot. They were the ones there for me. I had the most talks with my parents since I was little."
One bit of advice Hawkins embraced was to not brood during the suspension, but try his best to stay in shape and show through his actions he sorely wanted to be reinstated.
"I thought if I had a chance to come back I didn't want to come back 20 pounds heavier," said Hawkins, who played pick-up ball at the rec center and ran on his own, reporting the first day of Boot Camp at 173 pounds, about 10 pounds lighter than he was a year ago.
"I came in pretty well conditioned, feeling good about my body," he said.
He also felt good about his state of mind.
"The big thing for me is to be more positive, have a positive attitude at all times, work harder in practice to better my teammates as well as myself," Hawkins said.
The good news is he has impressed coach Bill Self, who, like Hawkins, never has made public his reasons for suspending the guard.
"I'll say this: Jeff Hawkins has done everything we've asked him to do," Self said. "I know it has been good for him in the short term. I hope it is in the long term. It remains to be seen.
"I certainly believe he can contribute and be an asset to our program if he continues along the same route he's taken of late."
He showed his potential a year ago, scoring 19 points in a nonconference win at TCU. That performance, which included five threes in seven tries, promoted Horned Frogs coach Neil Dougherty to pat Hawkins on the back after the game and say, "Why us, Jeff? Why us?"
TCU senior guard Nucleus Smith said he felt helpless every time Hawkins shot.
"You could put a hand up, but he was hitting from every where," Smith said. "When you're on, you're on."
| Full name: Jeffrey Alan HawkinsClass: juniorHeight: 5-11Weight: 175Hometown: Kansas CityHigh school: Sumner AcademyMajor: communicationsBirthdate: November 9, 1982