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Senior Week Highlight Reel: Mikael Hopkins

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Like it or not, our mercurial Komrade has been key to the team's success.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Mikael Hopkins began his college career quietly, playing only a few reserve minutes per game behind Henry Sims and not appearing at all in tighter contests. He was coming to Georgetown from DeMatha High School, the same local program as recent alumnus Austin Freeman, a fan favorite who had set the bar very high. As part of the frontcourt-by-committee alongside Nate Lubick during his Sophomore year, Hopkins started every game.

Inexperience and uncertainty are a vicious combination in Big East play. The learning curve was steep, but Hopkins was making progress. He was grabbing more rebounds. He blocked shots. On seven occasions he scored in double figures!

The most memorable performance of that year came in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas had closed the Carrier Dome then held Syracuse to only 39 points in the final regular season game at the Verizon Center. Down 4 points with only minutes to play in the third meeting of the season between Georgetown and the evil Orange, Hopkins managed to corral a tipped pass from Otto Porter. Fans held their breath. Only 3 seconds were left on the shot clock; he did something unequivocally awesome. With a graceful jump hook that appears to be his signature shot at MSG, Mikael kept his team in the game.

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With the transfer of Joshua Smith in fall of 2013, it was assumed that Mikael could slide over into a more natural fit at the 4. That setup didn't last long; Hopkins was once again sharing time in the middle with Lubick and Moses Ayegba. Finishing at the rim remained a struggle, but as this rejection against Xavier shows, his presence as a formidable defender was growing.

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He also adapted to the quick, precise passing game that the Hoyas often employ. His awareness of his teammates and their movements allowed guards Markel Starks and Jabril Trawick to be more mobile. Hopkins executed this play well as any of the legendary Hoya big men to whom fans try to draw comparisons.

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At long last, Mikael was starting to command (and deserve) some respect. It came grudgingly, but as much as it's fun to rip on ESPN...it's tough to argue with this block that earned him his first SportsCenter Top10 appearance. It also earned him the nickname "Komrade", which somebody else is going to have to explain.

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Confirmation Bias: "In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, leading to statistical errors." (Science Daily, via Google)

Read through a few game threads and you'll realize how frequently fans recall primarily the bad things - memories that help confirm what we want to believe about his performance. After several years, no matter how many missed layups have scarred our eyes along the way or how frequently we groaned while wishing he would clamp down both hands around the damn rebound, Hopkins has proven that he is actually good at basketball. The stone-hands moments have become less frequent and he positives of his game far outweigh the negatives. Ask Doug McDermott, the current NBA player who he manhandled last year at Creighton.

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The audible groans emanating from the Verizon Center after a missed dunk are a familiar part of the Chinatown ambiance. So when you've got a clear path to the basket, you take full advantage of  it. Hopkins understands the value of that opportunity better than just about anybody on the team. I would have to guess that this alley-oop was pure fun, which is what college basketball should be about.

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Let us all take a moment to be thankful that as a wise, experienced Senior, Mikael has not succumbed to the temptation of shooting that outside three when he has gotten the ball on the perimeter. Defense will always be his stronger facet of the game. JTIII knows this. Hopkins know this. As of this past December, so do the Indiana Hoosiers.

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Mikael works hard, he makes mistakes and he tries to get better. Have you seen him hang his head? Do you think his teammates would let that happen? The game after he missed 6 free throws, he came back and shot 11 of 12 from the line against Marquette. That doesn't happen by accident.

His performance this season has been solid, trading off with Smith and providing support from the bench in a role comparable to the arrangement that worked out pretty well for Hollis Thompson. He's a reliable defender and knows which shots he should take on offense. He even recorded a double-double in the recent game against St. John's, collecting 14 rebounds. Fans switch back & forth with alarming frequency between lauding and excoriating Hopkins. He just keeps on playing...and improving.

It's time to give him some credit.