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Good Morning, illini Nation: Best landing spot for Coleman Hawkins?

Jun. 3—Coleman Hawkins withdrew from the 2024 NBA Draft last week ahead of the NCAA-mandated deadline to do just that and still return to college basketball for the 2024-25 season. What Hawkins won't do, of course, is return to Illinois. That chapter is closed for the now former Illini forward.

But where will he land? In the latest episode of CBS Sports' "Eye on College Basketball" podcast, Matt Norlander named Arkansas, Louisville and Kansas State as contenders to bring in Hawkins for the coming season.

The Razorbacks are seen as the leaders. That makes some sense. Chin Coleman, who recruited Hawkins to Illinois, is on staff for John Calipari at Arkansas. The Razorbacks also have what's been reported as a major NIL war chest with plenty of chicken money to spend.

But the best thing about the Razorbacks might be their roster. With Zvonimir Ivisic following Calipari from Kentucky and Jonas Aidoo pulling off an SEC-to-SEC transfer after three seasons at Tennessee, Arkansas' center rotation is set. Hawkins can play his natural position again after, let's not say playing the 5 against his will last season for Illinois, but not being thrilled with it either.

A lineup of Hawkins and Aidoo in the frontcourt with Boogie Fland, Johnell Davis and Adou Thiero rounding it out is a good one for Arkansas. The Razorbacks, in that scenario, would bring DJ Wagner, Karter Knox, Billy Richmond and Ivisic off the bench. A top 25 bunch at least in terms of talent. How it all comes together is the question given how Calipari couldn't make it work at Kentucky at a high enough level the last few years.

Louisville and Kansas State might be situations where Hawkins could step into a bigger one that he necessarily would at Arkansas. The Cardinals are clearly rebuilding after two disastrous years under Kenny Payne, and new coach Pat Kelsey has already acquired a pair of stretch bigs in Noah Waterman and Casein Pryor. The Wildcats have more traditional bigs in David N'Guessan and Baye Fall with Achor Achor giving off some stretch 4/5 potential.

But the combination of role and NIL at Arkansas might be hard to top. Is it woo pig sooie time?