Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Attrition Files: Jaron Hopkins

It's taken me a while to pump this out out.  More than a while, in fact, as Jaron Hopkins announced his decision to transfer nearly a month ago on April 8th.  It's not that I don't care or don't see the importance - quite the contrary - it's just that I've waged an internal struggle over the proper way to sum up Jaron's time in Boulder.

Hopkins started his CU career as the recruiting salve to soothe the post-RMS wounds of another football failure; the happy news to offset an otherwise dour weekend.  The promise - his potential - was clearly evident from the offset.  A uniquely talented, highly athletic combo guard out of Mesa, possessing of size, speed, and versatility, JHop seemed to be the perfect compliment to Coach Boyle's system.  That the Buffs had plucked him out from Arizona, home of two budding Pac-12 rivals, only made the recruiting coup all the more sweet.  Eventually, he became known as the top-100 center-piece of the 2013 recruiting class, the followup to one of the most heralded in program history.  Needless to say, expectations were high.
From: the BDC
Every once in a while, you'd see a flash of that potential.  Usually against a team from his home state, the Arizona product would seem to score at will.  You'd see the whole package - some shooting, a lot of slashing, good defense, pugnacious activity.  THAT's the Jaron Hopkins that helped CU be their best.  THAT's the Jaron that kept me high over the future of the program.

Unfortunately, that's not always the JHop the team got.  There'd be whole stretches where he'd disappear on the court.  Maybe indecision on his part, maybe miss-management on the coaches' part, but these stretches are what held the overly talented sophomore back.  When on his game, the sky was the limit.  When not...
I kept hoping for a definitive step forward from Hopkins, searching for the reality in the potential.
The lesson I take from the Jaron Hopkins era, then, is that promise does not always equal results. With Hopkins, it's easy to see the talent, but it became harder and harder to see how he fits into the mold the Buffs were trying to shove him into.  The prototye of what Coach Boyle looks for in a recruit - lanky, athletic, versatile - could never settle into a role, and found himself behind a number of his peers, as a result. With 6/3 averages last year, he seemed to have settled into a rut, posting a nearly identical 91 Ortg to the one he posted as a freshman.  His defensive leadership, which, BuffNation had hoped, would blossom in year two, only seemed to wilt. Headed into his junior season, he would've still been coming off the bench, with prospects not much better for his senior season. With that in mind, this move makes a lot of sense.

I still view him a a good basketball player, clearly capable of D-I performance, but JHop just couldn't figure out how to consistently make an impact in Black and Gold.  While he stood out as of the best - if not the best - athlete on the roster, it never seemed to translate, and it makes sense for both sides to part ways at this point. Believe me, he would've contributed in '15-'16 as the always vital 6th man, but a kid with his talent deserves the opportunity to seek out starter's minutes.  Hopkins should quickly find a school eager to offer him the playing time he wants, while CU has the Derrick White era to look forward to in a few winters. No hard feelings whatsoever, it's just business.
There's a lot of good basketball left in Jaron.  From: the Post
Much like with Dustin Thomas, I will remain a JHop fan, and look forward to seeing him kick as in another uniform over the coming years.

Thank you, Jaron! Good luck at your next stop, and keep grinding!


Best Remembered for - 

The #GameShooter meme. Let's be honest, Jaron is not a good shooter.  The stories of his exploits in practice are particularly worrisome.  His form makes me cringe each time he raises up, and opponents seem to dare him to take long jumpers.  But, that said, he shot an acceptable 33% from the floor this winter, and learned to know his spots.  He could burn the lazy with a well-timed look, but only when it really mattered. Not that CU would ever draw up a shot for him, but, when it went in, it was always worth a bemused smirk.
See?  Smirk.

Best Aspect of his game - 

Extreme athleticism.  Jaron can flat jump out of the gym and has outstanding speed.  Essentially, he is a one-man fast break.  JHop runs the court like a gazelle, turning the table on a bunch of punk-ass lions.  The hunted becoming the hunter.  Lightning quick, and with a nose for the rim, Hopkins is always at his best when in the open floor.

Best game as a Buff -  

You want me to say the 20/7/5/4 he put up this January in Tempe.  Certainly, that was his best statistical output in Black and Gold, and would normally carry the day.  For my money, however, Jaron's best game was up in the Fort his freshman year, playing Robin to Spencer Dinwiddie's Batman in a crucial road win that was far more important than a random loss to ASU.  JHop hit both of his threes that day (#GameShooter), scoring 10 points in a very hostile environment.  Other than the Mayor, no other Buff was as good that day, and his performance proved vital.  Without that win, CU isn't in the Tournament in 2014.  Hopkins' effort helped secure that spot.

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