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Jordan Hawkins sets new career-high with 34 points in shorthanded Pelicans’ win over Mavericks

He started out as a rookie sensation, then he was benched, sent to the G League, and brought back.

On Friday night, former UConn standout Jordan Hawkins responded with another 30-plus point outburst, notching a career-high 34 as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 118-108.

Hawkins dropped 34 in 37 minutes, shooting 11-for-19 from the field and 6-for-12 from 3-point range. He hit six of eight free throws, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 4 assists and had a pair of steals.

“He was terrific,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said after the game. “He was locked in from the very start of the game. His game-plan discipline was off the charts. His ability to hit shots, but not only hit shots but continue to make the right play on both sides of the basketball.”

“No matter what time we get in, so long as there’s a basketball on the court, we’re gonna hoop,” Hawkins said. “I had a good opportunity to play, so I had to take it.”

Hawkins stepped up as the Pelicans were missing four starters– Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy– all to injury. The 37 minutes of game action were the most he’d seen since a Nov. 25 loss to the Utah Jazz, in which Hawkins played 40 minutes and scored 25 points.

The former Huskies standout and 14th overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft has appeared in 35 of the Pelicans’ 40 games this season. He’s averaging 10.7 points in 22 minutes per game, and shooting 40 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range.

“Free Hawk,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said when asked about his former player’s performance following UConn’s win over Georgetown on Sunday. “Listen, there’s a reason why we blew through that tournament last year, right? Those guys are great players and Hawk, it just speaks to his professionalism. … This guy was probably as good, first-team all-rookie and gets sent down to the G League, doesn’t do like what the culture of basketball (is), have a (expletive) attitude, go down there act like a baby and play like a dog. He went down there, he practiced his ass off, he played his ass off and now he gets his opportunity. He’s a high-level asset in the NBA.”

Hawkins was sent to New Orleans’ G League team. the Birmingham Squadron, on Dec. 28 as he struggled to get minutes as several key Pelicans players returned from injury. He played one game for Birmingham, scored 32 points in 37 minutes and was recalled to the NBA on Dec. 31.

Though he’s started just 10 games this season, Hawkins ranks third among rookies in points per game as a starter, according to StatMuse.

The Pelicans will face the Mavericks in Dallas again on Monday.