UK's Unlikely Hero

Player of the Week

Dominique Hawkins - Kentucky

Dominique HawkinsDominique HawkinsWhen it was announced that freshman guard Isiah Briscoe wouldn't be in the starting lineup Saturday against Louisville, I'm sure most of Big Blue Nation almost had a panic attack considering that would force another freshman Charles Matthews into the starting lineup and further weaken their rotation with Skal Labissiere not playing well of late. While Matthews got the start, it was the little used Hawkins that stole the show as he filled in for the injured Briscoe and had arguably the best game of his career. The former Mr. Basketball for the state of Kentucky scored 13 points in 26 minutes off the bench with only one turnover. His three baskets from distance really energized the crowd and provided a much needed spark against a Cardinal team that was giving the Wildcats everything they could handle on Saturday. He added an assist and a rebound along with his gritty defense against the the Cards backcourt duo of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. Hawkins has played second fiddle to the Harrison twins and now Tyler Ulis, and rightfully so, but he's got game and with the way he played Saturday, he should have earned additional playing time along with being a capable backup point guard to Ulis that Kentucky sorely needs.

Who's Hot

Ben Simmons - LSU

LSU has been one of the moor disappointing teams this season as they've struggled mightily to find consistency. But such is the case when you lose two players to the NBA and are relying on freshman to account for roughly 40% of your scoring. Simmons has had monster games and games he'd like to forget, at least from an offensive perspective goes, but he looks as though he has finally found some consistency as he's scored 20+ points in each of his last two games while shooting 67% percent from the field. Watching him play early on this season has been a treat for anyone who likes players who can do it all on the court. He still has a ways to go to become a complete player as he is still somewhat raw on the offensive end, particularly outside of 15 feet but that will come in time as he continues to improve his range. The comparisons to a young Lamar Odom are spot on as Odom had similar issues with range and was hardly a finished product when he left Rhode Island after his freshman year. He will get a decent test against Wake on Tuesday before conference play begins in January. Fans should mark their calendars for January 5th as the Tigers will travel to Lexington where Simmons could really solidify his status as player of the year against Kentucky and their roster loaded with NBA talent.

Armani Moore - Tennessee

Maybe I'm a little biased here as I've followed Moore's career closely as he went to high school less than a mile from where I lived for the better part of a decade and he, like the Jordan McCrae's and Josh Richardson's before him, has developed nicely at Tennessee. Continuing with the trend of players that can do a little bit of everything, Moore is a guy who has been asked to do it all during his time with the Vols and this year is no different. He's more comfortable on the wing but is asked to play point guard and forward at times for this Tennessee squad. New HC Rick Barnes' first season in Knoxville likely won't end with a NCAAT birth but Moore is at least ensuring that the team doesn't take too large of a step back this season as the team has its third Head Coach in as many years. Moore's offensive game has improved in each and every season but his true calling card is in his slashing ability. Even at only 6'4 he can finish at the rim and is an above average rebounder for his size, which is another testament to his versatility.

Who's Not

Skal Labissiere - Kentucky

Before we get started with Skal, let me say that I think he is still top five talent, just maybe not in this upcoming draft. After the likes of Jahlil Okafor and Karl Anthony Towns taking the college ranks by storm a season ago, a little too much pressure might have been placed on Labissiere to come in and replicate their performances. But he is a completely different player than both Towns and Okafor and has a completely different body type. He's had trouble staying on the court recently with both poor play and his inability to defend without fouling. He's had only one double digit scoring outing in his last six games and played a season low 10 minutes on Saturday against Louisville, scoring just two points on a pair of free throws. We've seen players come in and out of Calipari's dog house over the years so there is no reason for this three game stretch to give anyone reason to doubt his abilities but it should serve as a reminder that no everyone can get as acclimated to the college game as quickly as others. We've seen Chase Jeter struggle at Duke this year in a similar role. Labissiere isn't your prototypical back to the basket big and hasn't really found his way offensively just yet. He seems to be forcing things on that end of the floor and then trying to make too much happen on the defensive side of things to make up for his shortcomings offensively thus far. He'll get there in time but at the moment he is having to learn the hard way what it takes to make the step from High School to College ball.

Top Moment of the Week

Normally this is a Top 5 list of some kind, but a story like the one that played itself out last Tuesday in Gainesville is one that no basketball lover, or anyone for that matter, should gloss over. Zach Hodskins, current sophomore for the Florida Gators, scored his first career points in the final minute against Jacksonville. Two points late in a game well in hand wouldn't normally be a story line but Hodskins is a walk-on who was born with only one hand. He has played sparingly over the last two seasons totaling 13 minutes but he hadn't scored until he drove left down the lane against the Dolphin defender and finished through contact, connecting on the attempt and drawing a foul for a shot at a three point play. Hodskins would miss the free throw, but that couldn't dwarf what was, to this point, the best moment in his basketball career. Congratulations Mr. Hodskins and thank you for continuing to show the rest of us that no matter what, with the right attitude and hard work you can do anything you set your mind to.

Follow me on Twitter @CCroweNBADraft

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