BEREA — Dominique Hawkins returned to his hometown Friday.
The University of Kentucky senior guard and Madison Central graduate visited four Madison County schools — Kit Carson, Kingston, Daniel Boone and Madison Middle — as part of the #KyBoysTour along with classmate Derek Willis.
Hawkins and Willis spoke to students at all four schools about anti-bullying, upcoming statewide tests, staying active and perseverance. They also took questions from the audience at Kingston during a morning assembly featuring nearly 600 students, teachers and staff.
“It’s rewarding for me and I’m definitely blessed to have this opportunity to give back to the kids and just talk to them about simple stuff (to remember) in school, like bullying, how the teachers have an impact on them and staying focused in school,” Hawkins said.
“We’re trying to give the message about working hard and chasing your dreams, because that’s what I did and that’s why I played for the University of Kentucky, because I chased my dreams.”
Hawkins is known on a first-name basis throughout Madison County because of the notoriety of playing at Kentucky, but doesn’t consider himself a superstar.
“I don’t feel like a celebrity,” he said. “I just feel like another citizen from Madison County as well.”
In addition to getting up close and personal with members of Big Blue Nation, Hawkins is enjoying touring the state with Willis.
“Derek is definitely one of my brothers,” Hawkins said. “There’s no other person I would rather do (the tour) with.”
When not touring the state, Hawkins is busy preparing for the next phase of his basketball career, which could possibly be in the NBA or playing professionally overseas.
“I’m working on playing professional basketball,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know where at, but I’m doing what I’ve always done and that is working hard. I work out in the weight room, try to get a little stronger and hoping God gives me the opportunity to play professional basketball some where.”
Hawkins wouldn’t mind staying in the United State to pursue a professional career, but wouldn’t mind playing on foreign soil if that’s his best option.
“Overseas would be a little different, a different world and being away from my family, but hopefully I would get home (a lot) but you never know,” he said. “I really want to go where I can get paid a lot and help my family out and live the good life. I’ve always wanted to go overseas and explore the different cultures. I’ve been to China before, but I haven’t been to Europe and Paris. That would be awesome.”
Although his playing career at Kentucky ended with a 75-73 loss to North Carolina in the South Region finals on March 26 in Memphis, Hawkins is still drawing from his four seasons with the Wildcats.
“I still think about those days, because the fans still talk about it every where I go,” Hawkins said. “They’re always telling me how I stepped it up (my junior year) and this year. I just want to continue to make people proud.”
As he awaits graduation and his future destination as a professional basketball player, Hawkins is filling most of his schedule with visits to elementary and middle schools across the state. Hawkins attended Kit Carson, Mayfield and Daniel Boone as a youngster and made a visit to Kit Carson Friday morning before moving on to Kingston in Berea.
“I saw some (former) teachers (at Kit Carson) and it brought back some good memories,” Hawkins said. “It’s hard to remember back when you were small, but the teachers, they just live you and they wanted to tell me I did a great job representing Madison County as a Kentucky Wildcat.”
In return, Hawkins enjoyed his visit back to Madison County, giving the youngsters in the community life lessons that helped shape his own career.
“They’re going to remember this for a lifetime, most likely,” Hawkins said. “Having a part in that, I’m just blessed that God gave me the ability to play for Kentucky.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.