Photo Credit Dr. Michael Huang
The talk of Kentucky’s summer play and preseason practice was freshmen Bryce Hopkins, a top 40 recruit who had the physicalness and skills that impressed teammates and UK coaches.
Yet in five games he’s not played more than 16 minutes in any game and has just 13 shots — he has made six. He’s averaging 3.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 11 minutes per game.
“I’m fine with my position right now,” Hopkins said Wednesday. “I just want to keep getting better and when my number’s called, be ready.”
That could be tonight when Kentucky hosts North Florida. It certainly came a week ago against Ohio when Oscar Tshiebwe got in early foul trouble. Hopkins responded with seven points and seven rebounds in the first half and coach John Calipari said UK would not have won without Hopkins.
“I would just say I’m just a versatile player, “Hopkins said. “I can do whatever (Calipari) wants me to do with my physicality and my build. I’m fine with wherever he puts me out on court, so I don’t really have a preferred position to play.
“I want to keep getting better and keep showing people what I can do.”
Calipari stressed to Hopkins before the season started what he wanted him to do. That included running the floor, defending, creating plays for teammates, rebounding and attacking the basket with physical play.
Hopkins was the star of his high school team and has been a starter from middle school until now. However, he has not let that bother him because he understands the talent level on the team and why Keion Brooks is ahead of him.
“That doesn’t weigh down on me. I’ll just play hard and come in with a lot of energy, defend and just stay focused,” Hopkins said. “Keion knows I’m a good player, and he knows that I should be on the court. This is basically like his team, he’s been here for three years so I know I’m just looking up to him.”
“I knew what I was doing when I came here, but it’s not a bad transition,” Hopkins said. “I mean, I’m playing on the court with great players. One team can’t just focus in on you and just stop you because we have so many threats on this team.”