UCF's Dawkins, Florida's Hudson Work Out for Magic

by John Denton

ORLANDO – When they had nights off from their own games, UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins and the University of Florida’s Jalen Hudson were usually watching the Orlando Magic play either from their residences near campus on in person at the Amway Center.

Now that both forwards have made themselves eligible for the June 20 NBA Draft, Dawkins and Hudson are hopeful that the Magic were watching them play when they authored a couple of great performances this past season while starring for the Knights and Gators, respectively.

Dawkins, the son of UCF coach and former NBA player Johnny Dawkins, capped some stellar late-season play by delivering the best game of his life when the stakes were the highest for the Knights. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward put UCF in position to upset top seed Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by scoring 32 points, drilling five 3-pointers and swiping three steals in 40 minutes. However, the Knights lost 77-76 in heartbreaking fashion when Dawkins missed a late box out that allowed R.J. Barrett – another top draft-eligible forward – to snag a rebound and convert into the game-winning basket.

That night, though immensely painful for the 23-year-old Dawkins and the UCF faithful, ultimately played a major role in convincing him that he was ready for the NBA.

``That game was just so special just because of the gravity of it all,’’ Dawkins said. ``Not just for me, but for UCF and our brand and what we represent here in Orlando. It was great for my confidence and helping in pursuing this dream that I’m pursuing now, and it helped me get this workout. It was awesome that it happened the way that it did, and I wish we would have won, but it was a great game, nonetheless. But I’m still proud to have come from UCF and to have put that jersey on.’’

Dawkins, Hudson, Iowa State’s Talen Horton-Tucker, Eastern Kentucky’s Nick Mayo, Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie and Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon worked out for the Magic on Wednesday at the Amway Center. All are hopeful of hearing their name called next Thursday when the NBA Draft takes place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The Magic, who are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2012, are slated to pick at No. 16 in the first round and at No. 46 overall in the second round. The Magic had the NBA’s biggest win-improvement total from two years ago to this past season, capturing 17 more victories to reach the postseason. Orlando won Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, but ultimately fell 4-1 to a Toronto Raptors team that sits one victory shy of an NBA title.

Shooting, especially from beyond the 3-point line, proved to be a glaring weakness in the playoffs for the Magic and President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said that would be an area the team would look to address this offseason. Adding shooters could very well come from next week’s draft, and the Magic have done their due diligence thus far by working out dozens of top college players with impressive resumes.

Hudson, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound forward, had a somewhat disappointing senior season at Florida after averaging 15.5 points and shooting 40.4 percent from the 3-point line as a junior. As a senior, his point production (9.3 points per game) and 3-point accuracy (28 percent) fell off dramatically, leading to a significant dip in his playing time.

Still, Hudson showed off his potential late in the season. On March 6, he poured in 33 points and drilled four 3-pointers in a one-point overtime loss to LSU. Then, two double-digit scoring nights in the SEC Tournament (13 versus LSU and 16 against Auburn) and NCAA Tournament (15 against Nevada and 11 versus Michigan) rekindled his hopes of playing in the NBA.

It would be perfectly fine with Hudson if that chance came with the Magic, a team he became quite familiar with over the past two seasons while watching them play both on television and in person.

``There were actually nights when I came down here and watched a few times in the arena,’’ said Hudson, who feels his versatility as an elite wing defender and a plus shooter will give him a chance to make an NBA roster out of the NBA Summer League if he isn’t drafted. ``I was right down the right and I’d love to be here again in Florida, so we’ll see what happens. … I was able to get down for a few (Magic games) and I was just very impressed with the organization as a whole.’’

Like Hudson, Dawkins played the best basketball of his career when the games mattered the most late in the season. He had 26 points and four threes in February against SMU and then battered Temple 36 points, 11 rebounds and six 3-pointers in early March. Teaming with 7-foot-7 center Tako Fall – who worked out with the Magic last week – Dawkins played well against VCU (14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal) to help UCF win its first-ever game in the NCAA Tournament. The Duke game ended in misery for the Knights, but still Dawkins showed his potential against an elite-level foe.

``I take pride in that because it’s nice to show up for the moment because that’s something not a thing everybody can do,’’ said Dawkins, who averaged 15.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from 3-point range in 33 games as a junior at UCF. ``If you can do that, that’s a big thing. We all love to play in meaningful games, and we all want to show up in meaningful games, so that was big for me.’’

Dawkins started his career at Michigan and then was forced to sit out two years before playing this past season at UCF. He scoffed at the notion that his ceiling as a player has already been reached because of his age (23 years old). He said the decision to turn pro was an easy one even though he could have returned to UCF for one more season to play for his father.

Thus far, Dawkins said he has worked out in Toronto, Utah, Boston, Atlanta, Sacramento, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Orlando. He still has workouts remaining in Houston, Dallas and Charlotte. He pointed out that he wouldn’t mind sticking around Orlando and continuing his career with the Magic, a young team that he watched regularly this past season.

``I came to a handful of games, and I came to one of the playoff games, and I really enjoyed it. I was here for five or six games, I believe,’’ Dawkins said. ``I'd fit in with any team that would have me. I love the Magic and it was always nice seeing their games and coming to games while at UCF. I’d love to be a part of the team here and I think I could help them.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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