Kentucky Incoming Freshman Series: Bryce Hopkins!!!!!
This is the first in a three part breakdown of incoming freshman for Class of 2021 at Kentucky. I'll start with a young man from my area Bryce Hopkins.
Bryce Hopkins, 6'8" 220 pound combo forward, Fenwick, Oak Park, Illinois.
Top 30 high school player in the country for his class, Gatorade Player Of The Year for Illinois. He played for MoKan Elite on the Nike EYBL Circuit. I'll break down his strengths and weaknesses. Some of his game can be watched on the video I'll provide from YouTube.
STRENGTHS: Competitiveness, competitiveness, competitiveness. Refuse to lose mentality. Versatile on the offensive end. Can take fours off the bounce, and post up threes in the paint.
Plays strong in the paint as he exposes mismatches with his strength. He can score in the paint with either hand. Is explosive off the vertical when he tries to score inside. Explosive jumper off two feet and finisher at the rim. Is relentless on the offensive boards when he misses initial shot. He has a quick first step off the bounce especially using the left hand dribble. Loves to go left to get to the basket, and will either score with the left, change direction, or use the spin move to finish with the right. He can drive right but usually does a spin move to finish at the rim. Rarely see a straight line drive, finish at the rim when he's going right. Hopkins uses a spin move to get loose for finishes when he drives that way. Rarely is out of control to commit an offensive foul when attacking the basket, because of his great use of the spin move. Loves to put defenders in the spin cycle. Has a nice two dribble pull-up jumper in the lane from 12-15 feet. He's a decent three point shooter off the bounce along with the catch and shoot. Can run point at times as he's good at getting a rebound, pushing the ball off the bounce, and running an offense. He can take it coast to coast and finish at the rim. Hopkins is a big bodied three or a small ball four. Will surprise you with his quick first step off the bounce. Rarely turns the ball over. Draws a lot of fouls with his rugged play on the interior. Shot 34 free throws in a high school game his junior year. Seven foot wingspan helps him block shots you might not think he can get to. Clutch performer who makes the right play, whether it's scoring, or passing for the open shot.
WEAKNESSES: What position is he going to guard in college? Fenwick played a zone trap half court defense most of the game. He is too erect on defense which makes it easy for opponents to attack him on the bounce. Right now not quick enough to guard threes on the perimeter, and could be too short to guard fours in the interior. Tweener in basketball terms at this point. Sometimes he does not get a low enough center of gravity when posting up on the block. He got away with it in high school but won't on the college level. College weight room and keeping body fat in control will help with his quickness in guarding threes. Hopkins looked good with quickness and bounce at the Iverson Classic in the Spring. Has to get better in off the ball defense and use ball-you-man principles. Gambles too much in the passing lanes trying to get steals. Has to become better at three point shooting. Quicken his release on his jump shots. Needs to become a better free throw shooter and get the percentage up into the 80% range.
CONCLUSION: Bryce Hopkins will surprise Kentucky fans with his quickness off the bounce, his ball handling, and finishing at the rim. His weaknesses can be fixed, also with the way the game is going a lot of teams play with a small ball four. Hopkins should have no issue with the physical play on the college level. He will have to keep up with his body fat in control because of his build. I see him as a two to three year player at Kentucky before being ready for the NBA. With the way the game is going he can be a great success and have a good future in basketball. His wingspan will help him on the defensive end compensate for lack of foot speed in guarding threes. He should fight for playing time will have a bench role to start the season, but don't be surprised if he gets a lot of clock because of his versatility on the offensive end.