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Georgetown Hoyas Player Profiles: Mikael Hopkins

After years of playing various roles on short-staffed teams, where does this utility big fit in his senior year?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, we arrive at Georgetown's senior class. It's an odd bunch that doesn't much resemble the heralded recruits that arrived as freshmen in the fall of 2011.  Tyler Adams barely played before a heart condition sidelined him permanently.  Greg Whittington showed a season of promise and another half-season of production before sabotaging his own budding stardom.  Otto Porter gave us two memorable years, one of near basketball perfection, before rightfully bolting for the pros. While a full four years from all five players would have been asking a bit much, it seems stingy that we got barely half of that.

The only four-year players of that 2011 group are Mikael Hopkins and Jabril Trawick. While Trawick has been solid if unspectacular, Hopkins's path has been uneven.

Last Season

6.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 blk pg, 42.7 FG%

Hopkins entered his junior year as somewhat of a lightning rod.  The season before, Hopkins had replaced Henry Sims as Georgetown's center, and was immediately slotted as a high post, wheeling and dealing big that Sims had become as a senior. The problem was, Hopkins wasn't Sims's equal as a ball-handler and passer, and lacked Sims's ability to see the floor. He tended to turn the ball over a lot (12 games with 3 or more giveaways) without the corresponding assist or point totals to counterbalance those miscues. Eventually, the offense reoriented toward the more offensively adept Hoyas, with Hopkins frequently playing a small-ball center platoon with Nate Lubick.

Last season, Hopkins figured to move back to a reserve role, where he'd back up Lubick at power forward and Joshua Smith at center.  For a while, that worked fine. Hopkins brought fresh legs off the bench, crashing the boards, blocking the occasional shot, and generally providing a mix of size and energy that was effective against opposing front courts that were tired from pushing back on Smith.

Then, Smith was gone to academic suspension, and Hopkins was back to his role as starting center. And he had some success, particularly in advantageous match-ups: against Creighton's five-out offense, he scored in double figures in both outings and effectively defended both of the Blue Jays' three-point-shooting but smallish bigs; against Providence's big but not exactly gritty front line, Hopkins averaged 10 and 7. He averaged a healthy 1.5 blocks per game and improved his rebounding well beyond his anemic sophomore year totals. (It should be noted here both that D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera tallied one more rebound that Hopkins on the season despite standing six inches shorter, and that DSR played nearly 500 minutes more than Hop.)

Still, there was plenty of bad stuff last season, some horribly, maddeningly bad. Hopkins still tried to do too much offensively. His fruitless post-ups, wild forays into the lane, and occasional, optimistic three-pointers were understandable, given Georgetown's deficit of offensive threats. But they still weren't effective.  Hopkins remained an unreliable offensive threat, ending more games with two or fewer points (eight) than in double figures (seven). His jumper wasn't consistent enough to space the floor from the power forward position, and he wasn't strong enough to finish effectively around the rim.

Like the other Hoya bigs, Hopkins also fouled at unsustainable rates, averaging more than 3 fouls in just 20 minutes of play.  In addition to relegating Hopkins to the bench, those fouls cost Georgetown collectively, as opponents found themselves in the bonus early and often.  Of course, those bigs were backing up a pair of guards that were (1) not exactly rangy speedsters or long-armed ball hawks and (2) overworked on offense, leaving precious little energy for the defensive end of the floor. As a result, opposing perimeter players got into the lane with some ease, increasing the odds of a foul. That said, porous perimeter defense only explains so much, as Georgetown had one of the worst foul rates in the country.

Even with these deficiencies, Hopkins' rebounding and shot-blocking improvements offered some hope for his senior year.  During Kenner League, Hopkins was mostly good, averaging a respectable 18 points and 9 rebounds per game. Those numbers get inflated by undersize summer competition, but Hopkins still showed steady improvement.

This Season

Hopkins returns to a more crowded front court. Smith is back and Bradley Hayes appears to have improved somewhat, suggesting they may play most of the 38 minutes opened up by the departure of Nate Lubick and Moses Ayegba.  At forward, the arrival of Isaac Copeland and Paul White, the return of Aaron Bowen, and the presumed development of Reggie Cameron may mean that minutes are hard to come by.

Still, it's reasonable to assume that Hopkins will play around 20 minutes per game, his average for the past two seasons. As glaring as his weaknesses are, Hopkins's ability to rebound and defend passably well will be valuable, given that Smith's weaknesses in those categories.  Also, while the Copeland and White offer the possibility of spacing at the power forward position, it's unclear whether they can hold their own down low, where Hopkins's three years of seasoning will give him an advantage over the freshmen.

Soaring Delusion

Hopkins sticks to what he does best, rebounding, defending, and occasionally taking advantage of an open spot near the rim on offense.  At the beginning of the season, he starts alongside Smith, but is the first sub out in favor of Copeland.  Hopkins otherwise rarely plays alongside Smith, instead forming a center platoon. Hopkins' speed and athleticism allows the Hoyas to play fast when he's on the court, extending pressure full court and getting out on  in transition on offense. He keeps his fouls in check long enough to play about half the game, eventually averaging about 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.

Crushing Cynicism

Smith gets injured or can't play heavy minutes, Hayes isn't ready, and Hopkins is pressed into service for 30 minutes per game. The ball sticks with him, and too many possessions end with a flailing Hopkins losing the ball off the backboard or out of bounds. He continues to be foul-prone, and JT3 is forced to go super-small for long stretches with Copeland, White, Trey Mourning, and undeveloped Hayes all seeing time in the middle.