Never mind that junior Thomas Hawkins' scoring average is down five points and he's not the Annapolis Panthers' leading scorer.
Hawkins is a better player than he was last season, and Annapolis is a better team despite his lower points.
In 1997-98 Hawkins, a 6-foot-3 swingman, led the Panthers to the Class 4A state semifinals and became the first sophomore named The Sun's Anne Arundel County boys basketball Player of the Year. The Panthers finished 21-7 behind his 20.2 scoring average.
This season he's averaging "only" 15.7 points a game. Off year?
"Thomas is a better player, and you only have to look at his assists, rebounds and defense," said coach John Brady. "He very seldom gets into foul trouble, and with three other players scoring [in double-digits], we have more distribution."
Hawkins, a Street & Smith preseason "high" honorable mention All-American for underclassmen, was the first freshman to play varsity in Brady's 22 years at Annapolis. As a 10th grader, he averaged seven rebounds and two assists.
Those numbers are up to 8.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per outing, and at 14-0, Annapolis is ranked third in the Baltimore area and No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll for Class 4A schools.
"I've really improved my defense, which is something Mr. Brady encouraged me to do," said Hawkins, whose favorite player is Michael Jordan. "Mr. Brady has emphasized playing both ends of the court, and not only is my defense better, but my passing might be my best skill. Being the leading scorer is not as important to me as winning."
Marcus Neal, brought up to varsity as a freshman last winter, is this season's leading scorer (16.1). Marcus Johnson, another junior, is third at 13.9 but is a tad ahead of Hawkins in assists at 4.1.
Travis Foster, a 6-5 junior, was averaging 10 points a game until dipping slightly to 9.7 after scoring 23 points in three games last week. However, Foster had a good week on the boards with 32 rebounds and overtook Hawkins as the Panthers' top rebounder at 8.4.
But when it comes to the complete game, Hawkins is still the man.
Most of his offensive skills are above the ordinary, such as hitting a three (45 percent), posting up, scoring facing or with his back to the basket, pulling up for a jumper or tapping it in using his 210-pound frame in the blocks.
"Thomas creates and finishes, " said Brady. "He's smart and clever. And he's extremely consistent from the foul line. At nitty-gritty time in the fourth quarter, he doesn't miss."
Hawkins was an 85 percent free-throw shooter last season and is right there again. In the Panthers' three wins last week, he sank 13 of 14 attempts.
"I definitely think my overall game is better, and I'm playing on a team with everybody getting their roles down, " said Hawkins. "Everybody gets along well, and it's our goal to get back to Cole Field House [for the state final four], because we have a great shot to win it this time."
Hawkins, who grew up playing basketball in the Annapolis Gardens and Bywater communities with the Crusaders, Boys and Girls Club, and Annapolis All-Stars, credited Brady for his approach to life and the game.
With colleges such as Michigan, Towson, and James Madison showing interest, Hawkins said he has changed his attitude about academics, too.
"Where I grew up, you would just get out there and go, not listen to anybody about anything," said Hawkins, who loves playing video games when he's not playing basketball or doing homework. "Mr. Brady taught me to be coachable, listen to your coach, and have respect. He's helped make me the player I am."
Pub Date: 1/28/99