Hopkins has unlimited future, high school coach says

Kentucky basketball has had player and coaching defections as well as player and coaching additions recently. That’s made it easy to lose perspective on signee Bryce Hopkins.

The 6-7, 220-pound Illinois standout is not a top 10 national recruit but Fenwick High School coach Staunton Peck believes his star has an unlimited future.

“When he faces adversity or hardship his response is not blaming issues on anyone else. Instead, he just works to get better,” said Peck. “That’s a big part of the reason he keeps getting better.

“He is 6-7, 220 (pounds) but has guard skills. He handles the ball like a point guard. He has a real good first step getting to the rim. He has a great combination of size and skill. He is a mismatch problem. If he has a smaller guard on him he is comfortable cutting to the post and finishing physically at the rim. A bigger guy on him has no chance to stay with him on the perimeter.

“He is very physical finishing at the rim. Guys bounce off hm. It’s not just drive to the rim and dunk. He can be creative. He has a strong spin move to finish at the rim. He can also shoot the 3.”

Want more? Peck says he also has great vision that makes him a good passer to add to his feel for the game. Peck recalled a game where the game’s final play was designed for Peck but he drove and drew three defenders.

“He kicked the ball to the best shooter to make a 3 to win the game and conference. That shows his ability to understand the game. When he was younger, he might have just jacked up a 3 himself,” Peck said. “He’s more than just a scorer. He is a playmaker.”

Others are noticing. At the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic last week in Memphis, ESPN NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony got his first in-person look at Hopkins and liked what he saw.

“Kentucky commit Bryce Hopkins had a great day. First time seeing him; just a good all-around basketball player. Did some really interesting things defensively, made a bunch of shots, and is a really smart and unselfish passer. Exactly what Kentucky needs at that position,” Givony said.

Hopkins, a one-time Louisville commit, averaged 24.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game last season. He shot 58.9 percent overall from the field (32 percent from 3-point range) and 75.7 percent at the foul line and 31.8 percent from 3-point range.

Peck called Hopkins a “man-child” because of his physicality.

“He does not get pushed around. He does a good job using his length and physicality on defense but is also a smart defender,” Peck said. “I had him guard inside guys because I didn’t want him to use all his energy on the perimeter running around. He’s a good rim protector and he anchored our defense. He jumps straight up without fouling.

“At the end of our season, he really emerged as a leader and just finished his career on a real, real high.”