After saying he'd stay, U point guard Hawkins entering transfer portal

Gophers record-setting point guard Elijah Hawkins said earlier this spring he would return to the program, but he's entering the transfer portal, the Star Tribune confirmed.

Hawkins, who ranked second in the nation with 7.5 assists per game last season, said after the Big Ten tournament that he was "definitely coming back" to the team. The Gophers posted that they expected him back. Hawkins also did promotions with the Gophers' NIL collective Dinkytown Athletes on April 12, but he backtracked on his decision nine days before the portal closes May 1.

The 5-11 former Howard University transfer averaged 9.5 points and 3.6 rebounds, but his 247 total assists set a Gophers single-season record. Hawkins, a Washington, D.C., native, also set the single-game record with 17 assists last season against IUPUI.

A more lucrative NIL opportunity elsewhere is believed to be the reason Hawkins decided at the last minute to leave. The news of his intention to transfer was first reported by recruiting analyst Joe Tipton.

Hawkins is the sixth player on the Gophers to enter the portal since the end of the regular season, joining a list that includes starting center Pharrel Payne. Joshua Ola-Joseph and Isaiah Ihnen announced decisions to transfer to California and Liberty, respectively.

The departure of the Big Ten's assist leader is a significant blow to Gophers coach Ben Johnson's hopes of keeping most of his core intact from a much-improved 19-15 season.

Johnson's leading scorer and rebounder Dawson Garcia and starting guard Mike Mitchell Jr. are both still expected back. The same goes for senior forward Parker Fox, who was part of the main rotation in 2023-24. Freshman Cam Christie declared for the NBA draft earlier this month but also left the option open to return to college.

Mitchell is the leading candidate to replace Hawkins as the U's main floor leader. The former Pepperdine transfer averaged 10.2 points and 2.6 assists last season primarily off the ball for the Gophers. But point guard has been his natural position.

The Gophers also signed four-star senior Isaac Asuma from Cherry, Minn., who was ranked as one of the top point guards nationally in the 2024 class.

Last week, Canisius forward Frank Mitchell signed with the Gophers after ranking fourth in the nation in rebounding this past season. Johnson and his staff have been active in searching the portal for more backcourt help, which includes hosting Oregon transfer Brennan Rigsby this week.