Class of 2022 forward Joyful Hawkins received a crystal ball in Auburn’s favor from Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports last Sunday.
Hawkins is a 6’8” forward who is currently a three-star on Rivals and unranked on 247, but his ranking seems ready to ascend based on his recent play.
As a freshman at Brunswick High School, Hawkins was the Region 2-AAAAAA Player of the Year and led his team to the Final Four while earning All State honors.
After missing his sophomore season due to transfer rules, Hawkins has exploded so far this summer and outplayed his ranking. He plans to play this coming high school season with AAU teammate Scoot Henderson at Kell High School.
Sitting out last season gave Hawkins a chance to work on his game, and he said those watching will notice the difference.
“My motor has gotten a lot better,” Hawkins said. “I’ve been trying to work on my ball handling and my shot, my confidence and my team’s confidence. I bring my team up.”
Hawkins’ three-point shot is one of the improvements already being noticed.
“I work and practice it every day,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said he’s working on his perimeter game in general, so he can have a bigger impact inside and outside the paint. To do that, the forward said he needs to improve his shooting and ball handling.
Defense is another strength for Hawkins, who regularly blocks several shots a half.
“I’m good at blocking shots and timing people’s shots,” Hawkins said. “I can guard 1-5. My lateral quickness is good.”
Hawkins’ game is reminiscent of a bigger Anfernee McLemore. Hawkins has no problem keeping up with guards on fast breaks, has great shot blocking instincts and can step out and knock down threes.
Outside of adding more perimeter skills to to his game, Hawkins said coaches have advised him to work on his rebounding.
“Offensive rebounds and [all] rebounds really,” Hawkins said. “They know I can score and block shots, but they want me to get more rebounds on offense and defense.”
Hawkins attraction to Auburn has a lot to do with his relationship with Auburn Assistant Coach Wes Flanigan, but the fans and game day atmosphere also play a big role.
“[Flanigan] is my guy,” Hawkins said. “He texts me before games and tells me to stay focused.”
Hawkins said he speaks to Flanigan often.
“He’s someone that’s in my corner,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t say much about Auburn, but when I go there for games, the atmosphere is wild. I like it. The crowd, the fans and all that.”
Hawkins said he has visited Auburn multiple times. In February, he and Henderson visited Auburn for the Tigers’ win over Kentucky.
“Auburn is close, and it’s a good school to go to.”
Hawkins spoke favorably about Auburn, but the Tigers aren’t the only school to notice him. Ole Miss and Minnesota are also showing interest, Hawkins said.
Kell is expected to play in the Holiday Hoopsgiving, the City of Palms Classic and be one of the top teams in Georgia this season. Hawkins’ stock could rise even more with another good season.