With four guards entering their final season of eligibility, Fresno State needed to add some bodies to its backcourt for the future. Head coach Rodney Terry and his staff took a step in that direction Wednesday, as former Colorado guard Jaron Hopkins has decided to transfer to the Mountain West program.
News of Hopkins’ decision was first reported by the Fresno Bee.
In two seasons at Colorado, Hopkins averaged 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19.5 minutes of action per game. As a sophomore the Arizona native made 17 starts, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Hopkins will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 season at Fresno State, where he reunites with former grassroots (Compton Magic) teammate Paul Watson.
Fresno State, which finished 15-17 last season (10-8 Mountain West), returns its top four scorers but three of those players are guards who will be seniors in 2015-16. Marvelle Harris, who averaged 16.4 points per game last season, is a senior as are Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis.
With those three, and reserve Darnell Taylor, due to move on there will be opportunities for Hopkins to be a key contributor when he’s eligible to compete in 2016-17. While Hopkins sits three other newcomers will be able to play next season for the Bulldogs: Washington transfer guard Jahmel Taylor (eligible mid-year), junior college transfer Cullen Russo and freshman Nate Grimes.
The 2014-15 season was expected to be a solid one for the Colorado basketball program, with the Buffaloes picked to finish third in the Pac-12 preseason poll. Things didn’t work out that way for Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes however, as injuries and inconsistency resulted in an overall record of 16-18 and a conference record of 7-11.
Changes were inevitable this offseason, especially considering Boyle’s comments in early March regarding the commitment returning players would be required to make this summer. Wednesday morning the program announced that one of its contributors, sophomore guard Jaron Hopkins, has decided to transfer and has been granted a release from his scholarship.
Hopkins started 17 of the 32 games in which he played this past season, averaging 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 20.9 minutes of action per contest. He’s the second player to decide to transfer since the end of the regular season, with sophomore forward Dustin Thomas being the first.
“Jaron has decided to transfer from the University of Colorado,” Boyle said in the release. “We appreciate all what he has done for our program in the last two years. We wish Jaron all the best in his future endeavors.”
Xavier Talton and Dominique Collier were both part of the perimeter rotation at the end of the season, with Askia Booker and Hopkins being the departures. In addition to Talton and Collier, with the latter expected to be a centerpiece for the Buffaloes moving forward, Colorado has Josh Fortune (Providence transfer) and George King coming off of redshirt seasons to add depth on the wings (Tre’Shaun Fletcher is also back).
And of its three commitments in the Class of 2015 two are guards, Thomas Akyazali and Deleon Brown.
With starting guard Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combining to shoot 5-for-19 from the field and reserve guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher out due to injury, there was room for another guard to step up for No. 20 Colorado in its’ Pac-12 opener against Oregon State on Thursday night. With the Beavers being led by high-scoring guard Roberto Nelson and welcoming back Eric Moreland, who was suspended for the first 12 games of the season, they represented quite the test for Tad Boyle’s team.
Fortunately for the Buffaloes, freshman guard Jaron Hopkins snapped out of a four-game slump to score 13 points in their 64-58 win. One of three Buffaloes to score 13 points on the night (Booker and Josh Scott being the others), Hopkins made five of his eight shots from the field while also blocking two shots. The game represented a departure from his production in the four games prior for Hopkins, as he shot a combined 4-for-16 from the field and scored ten points in the four games after his ten-point outing in a win over Colorado State on December 3.
Without Fletcher he and Xavier Talton, who had a key offensive rebound late in the second half, were the two perimeter reserves against Oregon State and Hopkins provided some much-needed production off the bench with both teams struggling offensively.
Colorado shot just 38.2% from the field but that was better than the Beavers, who made 37.5% of their attempts on the night. The combination of defense and an improved effort on the boards in the second half were major factors in Colorado’s victory, and looking ahead to their game against N0. 10 Oregon Hopkins’ output was key as well. Given the number of weapons that Oregon has on the perimeter, the Buffaloes will need their guards to be productive offensively while playing also well defensively if they’re to move to 2-0 in conference play.
“I’ve known that we’re capable of it,” Boyle said of his team’s defensive effort after Thursday’s game. “We just haven’t completely bought in, but tonight, we did and we’re going to need that kind of effort on Sunday again because Oregon is very explosive from a lot of
different positions. I think they’re the deepest team in our league in terms of talent, productive talent.”
Colorado isn’t as deep as Oregon, and that makes the production of a player like Hopkins even more important on Sunday. Hopkins’ point total against Oregon State may not look like a big deal, but if he can maintain that positive momentum it would be an important development for Colorado.