Before the game, the Gophers honored Elijah Hawkins for scoring 1,000 career points.

During the game, the Gophers honored Hawkins for setting the program's single-season assist record.

After the game, the Gophers did not honor Hawkins on the court.


A better word would be "promising."

The Gophers didn't honor Hawkins afterward because he has a year of eligibility remaining, and so was not a part of the Senior Day ceremony.

Hawkins will be back next season, and on Saturday he sustained the Gophers' hopes of playing longer this season.

As the Gophers came back from a 23-point deficit to defeat Penn State 75-70 at Williams Arena, Hawkins seemed to be everywhere, doing everything.

He led the team in minutes, playing all 40.

Hawkins made three of his six three-point attempts, with the rest of the team shooting 2-for-14.

He made five of his six free throws, and was second on the team in scoring, with 18 points, one behind Cam Christie.

Hawkins led the team in assists, producing eight of the Gophers' 15, remaining among the leaders in that category in the country.

He added two rebounds and two steals, and was the primary reason the Gophers were able to easily defeat Penn State's press late in the game.

If there was a signature moment for Hawkins in this game, it came with a little more than two minutes remaining and the outcome still in doubt.

Hawkins stole the ball, drove the length of the court, went up for a contested layup, and at the last moment dished to the trailing Mike Mitchell for an easy lay-in that gave Minnesota a 64-63 lead.

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I asked coach Ben Johnson if he could have expected this much from Hawkins when he recruited him out of the transfer portal, after Hawkins played for Howard and made the NCAA tourney last year.

Johnson's answer was long, passionate and telling.

"You never know when you get new players in," Johnson said. "You can watch all the tape and film you want, but until you're able to coach him, you just don't know what they're made of.

"I think that was the biggest thing with him and Mike [Mitchell]. I recruited Cam for over a year, so I knew him, but when you do a quick recruitment in the portal, you have no idea what they're like personality-wise and what they're made of.

"So you rely on a lot of outside information. Everybody kept telling me that that dude is a winner. I mean, every single person, from high school to junior high to the AAU coaches — I mean, it was unanimous.

"I ride with guys who are just out-and-out winners, who have that DNA, and that's what really sold me on him. If you watched in the beginning of the year, there were games where I didn't close with him, but he just grew and matured and he's made this team his. He's got a will. I played him way too many minutes, but he never seems to get tired. The kid has been phenomenal for us. So now, this needs to become his team from here on out."

The Gophers started sluggishly and trailed by 23 points. Had they lost, they would have had no realistic hopes of making the NCAA tourney. Now they have a clear, if difficult, path: win at home against Indiana, on the road at Northwestern, look impressive in the Big Ten tourney and … hope.

Hawkins brought hope with him to Minnesota, signing on to a team that had gone 2-17 in the Big Ten last year, and helping them to their ninth conference victory of this season.

"I think it's just a testament to who he is," senior Parker Fox said of Hawkins. "He's such a fun player. Obviously. You guys see it, we see it, whether it's an unselfish pass when he could have taken a shot, or keeping the ball alive for somebody else. It's just the way he approaches the game, and it's so fun to be a part of it."