Following back-to-back commitments from Paolo Banchero (Duke) and Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee) in consecutive weeks, Kentucky had just two scholarship offers extended to uncommitted prospects in the class of 2021 – Jaden Hardy and Patrick Baldwin Jr. – by the time fans woke up Friday morning.
John Calipari and the UK coaching staff doubled that total on Friday evening, first with an offer to five-star guard Hunter Sallis, followed by another extended to four-star forward Bryce Hopkins.
Moments after Hopkins’ scholarship offer from Kentucky, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward’s father, Clyde Hopkins, spoke with KSR about the conversation with the UK coaching staff and what it means for his son’s recruitment moving forward.
“Just got off the Zoom call with Kentucky. Things went well. Things went really, really well,” Hopkins told KSR. “They went over his style of play, what they like about his game. It’s exciting, very exciting.
“Cal, they were talking about how excited they’d be to coach Bryce. Things did move rather quickly. I believe with him decommitting [from Louisville], with him available and on the board, they felt they needed to offer him.”
What led to the offer? According to the father of the No. 33 overall prospect in the 2021 247Sports Composite Rankings, Kentucky valued his versatility first and foremost.
“They like his game a lot, the versatility, his strength, being strong down in the post,” said Hopkins. “Being able to post, come back out on the perimeter, they love his versatility. They didn’t really go into [how they’d use him], but Coach Cal, he puts players out there. That’s the type of player he recruits, positionless players. They say he’ll just get it done. If they need to use three guards, they use three guards. If they need two wings, they use two wings. They just put players on the floor that can make plays, and they think Bryce can do that for them.”
The call consisted of four members of the UK staff: two main coaches and two secondary pieces within the program.
“They had the strength coach, Rob [Harris], Coach Cal,” said Hopkins. “I’m not familiar with the entire coaching staff yet, but [Tony] Barbee, he was there. They also had [UK recruiting analyst] Brady [Kennedy] on there. Brady, Barbee, Coach Cal, and Rob [Harris].”
Any mention of Bruiser Flint or Jai Lucas, two coaches expected to be announced as official additions to the coaching staff in the near future?
“No, not at all. Not at all.”
Outside of Kentucky, a host of other programs have expressed genuine interest and/or extended offers following the four-star forward’s decommitment from Louisville.
“Michigan was the before this, Providence, Notre Dame, Oregon, they offered, I don’t know the exact order, but once he decommitted, those were the offers,” Hopkins told KSR. “He’s been in contact with Vanderbilt, they haven’t offered, but South Carolina and Indiana too.”
The growing interest is no surprise for Hopkins’ father and trainer, who says he’d take the four-star forward over “anybody in the country.”
“I spend a lot of time with my son and this is no surprise to me, especially with his growth spurt. He’s 6’7.5” now. I trained Bryce, tried to help him become an elite player, and I’d put him up against everyone in the country. Anybody in the country.”
What separates his game from other elite talent in the senior class?
“Just his versatility,” said Hopkins. “There are some things we need to polish up and we have been doing that over this pandemic. I want to polish up his jump shot, I want him to shoot it at a better percentage. I’ve been helping him work on his rotation because he has huge hands, I had to get that guide hand off the ball. I’ve got him with a shooting coach now, a really good guy here in the Chicago area working on that.
“I believe he’s still growing, we’ve talked to Coach Cal and his strength guy about how he’d transform his body. Once we get that done, he will become more explosive, more agile. He’ll be more athletic.”
Last Wednesday, Hopkins told KSR that his son was expected to make a decision in the next four-to-six weeks.
Just over a week later, it appears things could wrap up even sooner, with Hopkins’ camp set to sit down and come up with a plan of attack regarding a decision this weekend.
“You know what? I think we will probably sit down this weekend as a family with his coaching staff at MoKan and put our minds together, come up with a plan,” said Hopkins. “At this point, it’s no rush right now. It’s totally up to Bryce. We’ll sit down and go over everything.”
When it comes time for a decision, the Oak Park, IL native is prepared to take on a challenge, one that very well could take place in Lexington.
“Bryce has never shied away from competition,” Hopkins told KSR. “After speaking with Kentucky and their staff, they definitely let us know how competitive their practices are. That’s what Bryce is cut out for, he’s up for the challenge. He’s ready to challenge himself. He started out on the Under Armour circuit, but he wanted to get tested more, and that’s what made him switch over to the EYBL. It’s the best of the best.
“He’s up for the challenge. You only get to do it once, you know?”