Bryce Hopkins not the kind of player that backs down from any challenge

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Bryce Hopkins not the kind of player that backs down from any challenge

(Photo from Larry Vaught)

By LARRY VAUGHT
The first time coach Staunton Peck met Bryce Hopkins was the fall of his eighth-grade year when he went to watch his middle school team play.  He met Hopkins and his family and they even came to some of Peck’s game at Fenton (Ill.) High School that season.

“I knew in eighth grade he could be special. He was probably 6-2 and had guard skills. His ball handling for a guy that size was really impressive. I was pretty positive he would be a Division I player,” Peck said.

The coach was right but admitted he did not quite envision the 6-7, 215-pound Hopkins committing to Kentucky like he recently did when he picked the Cats over  Illinois, Providence, Indiana and Michigan. He originally committed to Louisville before changing his mind in August.

“He has got so much better. I would not have bet a ton of money on him being a high major player as an eighth-grader but the more I got to know him and saw how hard he worked along with the support system he had at home, I knew he could be really good and he just keeps getting better,” Peck said.
“I am not surprised by how good he is now. He made some really big strides and his body really matured before his sophomore and junior seasons. He never relaxes in terms of working out. He doesn’t take many days off even in the offseason.”

Hopkins is a four-star wing and top 30 player in the 2021 recruiting class. Peck says Hopkins deserves that ranking but expects him to be an even better player in a couple more years.

“When things get hard or somebody challenges Bryce, he is not the kind of kid to give up,” Peck said. “He gets in there and works on his game. A lot of that comes from the message his parents give him. Sometimes if things go wrong, parents complain or blame someone else. That limits how good a player can become. Not his parents. They are always saying what can you do better. He hears that constantly.”
Peck says he has huge hands and is a physical, strong player who does not bounce off players when he gets to the rim.

“They bounce off him. But he’s also creative. He spins off guys. He can dunk but he can also finish with finesse around the hoop and do more than just power through opponents,” Peck said.

The coach believes Hopkins could play anywhere from point guard to power forward in college. He can finish with either hand — “he finishes dunks more with his right hand” — and dribbles equally well with both hands.
“He changes speeds well. In transition he could lead the break and pass the ball easily,” Peck said. “In terms of vertical, he’s not a freak athlete but he will finish. Don’t doubt that.

“His shot continues to get better, too. He’s always had a good looking shot but it will keep getting better because he works on it so much.”

Peck says practice is scheduled to start Nov. 16 and his team’s first game is now scheduled for Dec. 4.

“The good thing is I know Bryce never stops working so no matter how little practice time we have, he’ll be ready,” Peck said.

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