Mikael Hopkins left fans with bittersweet sentiment following his play at the end of last season. He followed up a valiant effort against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament by not showing up in the Hoyas' NCAA tournament loss. He gave you the excitement of thinking that he finally is ready for the next step by immediately regressing back to his former, underwhelming self. Such is the dilemma with Hopkins. The skill is there somewhere, he's athletic as hell, but for some reason you cringe the moment he touches the ball. Still, in thinking over the projects Thompson has transformed, Hopkins isn't far behind where most of these players were by the end of their sophomore seasons.
Last year's statistics: 20.1 min. pg, 5.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 blk pg, 0.9 stl pg, 40.9 FG%
Following a freshman season spent mostly on the bench (6.8 mpg), Hopkins entered his sophomore season at Georgetown a more manageable project. He needed to be, as an understaffed frontcourt ultimately landed him in the starting lineup. He started every game last season and, to his credit, emerged as a solid contributor and defender in a couple of key moments. The overall impression left by Hopkins is up for debate, as he didn't seem to grow much as a player throughout the season despite logging some heavy minutes against tough competition.
Hopkins started off the season hot, recording double-digit performances in 4 of his first 5 games. He finished out the rest of the non-conference schedule less effectively before experiencing some clear growing pains once Georgetown hit its conference schedule. Despite being extremely undermanned in the frontcourt, John Thompson was reluctant to give Hopkins consistent starter minutes, instead electing to play small-ball much of the time.
A big reason for the reluctance was partially Hopkins' high turnover rate, which was by far the highest on the team on a per-40 basis. He also shot 40.9 % from the floor, which is pretty miserable for a big man. Lubick shot at 59.1%. He did flaunt a surprisingly deft passing ability at times, but much of the time his creativity ended in a fast break going the other way.
When asked about what was causing Hopkins to struggle midway through the season this past year, John Thompson said the key is for him to settle down and relax.
"He's hearing it, so he's probably thinking about it a little bit," Thompson said. "We have to make a concerted effort to make sure get him the ball when and where he can be effective. And then he's just got to relax and put the ball in the basket. He's thinking now."
Though he ended last season still in significant need of improvement, Hopkins did have a few bright spots on the season, including a 15-8-2 night on 6 of 11 shooting in Georgetown's OT loss to Syracuse in the Big East tournament. In games in which Hopkins recorded 25+ minutes, his averages were: 10.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 2.1 blk pg, 1.1 stl pg, 46.5 FG%. If nothing else, he showed that when given the opportunity, he could contribute in a big way on offense.
"He's a talented, talented kid," said Nate Lubick of Hopkins. "When he gets that motor going - and we see it in practice all the time - it's impressive."
Hopkins has a lot to prove in his junior season, but he put in a lot of work over the summer in the Kenner League and is starting to use his athleticism to his advantage more often. Expectations should be tempered with the NCAA's recent decision to let Josh Smith play this season, as Hopkins will end up being most affected by Smith's earlier-than-expected presence on the team. Hopkins really could have used all the early-season minutes he could handle before the conference schedule.
Hopkins will likely end up right around where he was last season minutes-wise, if nothing else because of his fouling issues. But I'd like to believe he'll be a lot more efficient of a player when he plays this season. He's just raw, kind of like Sims was, so it's possible we'll have to wait until his senior season to see his best stuff. The potential that lies within Hopkins can only be harnessed if he controls his fouling and turnover issues. Thompson surely put emphasis on correcting those issues this past summer, as Hopkins will be looked at to contribute in the rotation.
It might take another year for Hopkins to really get it but for now he's no longer a liability and will be a nice springy energy if and when he gets relegated to bench duty. As he refines his raw game and develops a sense of how to maximize his value on the floor, he could really become a consistent help to the team. The next step Hopkins takes will be huge; it's just a matter of helping him through the step.
Best Case Scenario
Josh Smith's presence ends up really helping Hopkins. He excels at coming off the bench in spurts, finding that the game slows down when the attention is truly nowhere near him he has more energy than everybody. He flusters teams around the rim all season and earns a name for himself in Georgetown folklore with a game-saving defensive play in the NCAA tournament.
Worst Case Scenario
Hopkins progresses too slowly and his inefficiency leads to John Thompson slowly phasing him out as the season wears. Moses Ayegba emerges as a very tough and reliable big man, and overtakes Hopkins as the preferred frontcourt option off the bench. Hopkins loses confidence and the only statistical increase he witnesses is in his 4.0 per-40 turnover rate. He only appears at the very end of big blowouts.