The last man standing in college basketball from Michigan’s roster three seasons ago, Aubrey Dawkins is trying to make some March memories of his own.
Dawkins sat out two seasons after transferring to Central Florida to play for his father, former Duke All-American Johnny Dawkins, who closed a nine-year NBA career in 1994-95 playing 50 games for the Pistons.
While nobody else remains active in college from that 2015-16 Michigan team and the current Wolverines do not have a single four-year program player, Aubrey Dawkins is taking off in the Sunshine State.
“It’s just been awesome and something I truly, truly enjoy,” Aubrey Dawkins said. “There’s no feeling like winning games with your dad and for your dad.”
After transfer rules and a shoulder injury each knocked out a season, Dawkins actually has one more year of eligibility left for next season. Dawkins, who did a post-graduate year at New Hampton School in New Hampshire after high school, will be 24 in May. For context, there are eight current New York Knicks younger than Dawkins.
Beilein has enjoyed following Dawkins’ success, saying he checks the UCF boxscores after most games. Because of the unique opportunity of playing for his father — Beilein coached his son, Patrick, at West Virginia — there was no resentment about the transfer.
“It’s a terrific story,” Beilein said. “It’s a dream come true for him to be able to go and play for his father.
“He loved his time in Michigan very much, but he had a unique opportunity to play with his dad there.”
Beilein’s 2015-16 team has scattered around the world to continue careers.
Along with Dawkins, Spike Albrecht (Purdue), Andrew Dakich (Ohio State), Mark Donnal (Clemson), Ricky Doyle (Florida Gulf Coast) and Kameron Chatman (Detroit) finished their college careers elsewhere.
Caris LeVert (Brooklyn), Duncan Robinson (Miami), Moritz Wagner (L.A. Lakers) and D.J. Wilson (Milwaukee) are in the NBA. In addition, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Canton Charge) and Zak Irvin (Westchester Knicks) play in the NBA’s G League, Derrick Walton Jr. plays professionally in Lithuania and Chatman plays in Turkey.
Dakich is a graduate assistant at Ohio State, and Albrecht is a pharmaceutical salesman in the Chicago area.
“I’m so proud of their careers and everything they’re doing,” Dawkins said, listing off old teammates he’s still in contact with. “I really care about those guys.”
Doyle transferred home to southwest Florida, helping the “Dunk City” program to a regular-season Atlantic Sun title last season. His career and senior season ended this month when he was diagnosed with a congenital back disease that will require surgery down the road, ending his time with Florida Gulf Coast.
“He’s been besieged by injuries, even when he was here,” Beilein said. “He just never could quite get healthy enough to show what he could do. I think we saw some glimpses of some games of great potential here. But things got in the way a little bit.”
That 2015-16 Michigan team won a First Four game against Tulsa before losing to sixth-seeded Notre Dame, finishing 23-13. But the Wolverines were laying a foundation for a run that would later include two Big Ten Tournament titles and a trip to the national championship last season.
“We made it to the tournament when I was there, but they progressively made it further and further,” Dawkins said. “I know how hard those guys worked to get there, so there was nothing but excitement.”
While Dawkins left Ann Arbor before the bigger wins would come, he’s trying to lead the Knights to the NCAA Tournament, where they haven’t been since 2004-05.
The 6-foot-6 Dawkins is second on the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game and grabbing 5.4 rebounds for the Knights, who are 15-4 and 5-2 in the American Athletic Conference entering Thursday’s home game against UConn.
Returning all-AAC players BJ Taylor, a guard, and 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall have helped assume the leadership duties for Central Florida. “We’re getting familiar with each other,” Dawkins said.
Coming from Palo Alto, Calif., near while his dad coached at Stanford, Aubrey Dawkins made an immediate impact in Ann Arbor.
As a freshman, he shot 43.8 percent on 3-pointers, and knocked down eight from deep in a career-high 31-point game against Rutgers in the final game of his freshman regular season.
Dawkins played in 66 Michigan games in two seasons, starting 22.
But his scoring dipped from 7.0 points per game to 6.5 as a sophomore. Dawkins’ minutes fell by an average of 5 per contest as transfer Duncan Robinson added to a crowded group of wings that already included LeVert and Irvin.
At Stanford, Johnny Dawkins was not on a similar upward trajectory, and he was fired after eight seasons and a 15-15 record in 2015-16.
Nine days later, he was hired in Orlando by the Knights. Aubrey Dawkins jumped on a second chance to play for his dad and be around family, joining UCF, which was picked to win the AAC this season.
The Knights will look to regain form after Dawkins scored two points in a 77-57 loss Sunday at Memphis.
UCF is firmly on the bubble, ranked No. 42 in RPI as of Monday and in ESPN’s Bracketology NCAA Tournament projections before the Memphis loss. For a UCF team in need of signature wins, four combined games remain against No. 13 Houston and Cincinnati, who are tied atop the AAC.
“I’m happy with where we’re going to be come postseason,” Dawkins said. “That’ll be a scary sight. Imagine what our team looks like when we’re on all cylinders and everyone is playing on the same wave.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.