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.
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.
Colorado announces transfer of sophomore guard Jaron Hopkins
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.
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.
Jaron Hopkins’ improved production against Oregon State a welcome development for No. 20 Colorado
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.
They’ll be good because …: If all goes according to plan, Tad Boyle will have one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country. Spencer Dinwiddie is no longer a secret. The 6-foot-6 point guard is one of the most versatile players in the country, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. If he avoids his bouts of inconsistency, he’s got a shot at being a first round pick in June. Josh Scott put on 20 pounds of muscle, which should allow him to a) better get position in the paint and b) be more durable when it comes to lasting through the entire season. Throw in Xavier Johnson, who should thrive with Andre Roberson off to the NBA, and the Buffs could end up with three all-Pac-12 performers on the roster.
Colorado will also have a roster that will be able to give a number of different looks this season. If they need to go big, they can play Johnson at the three and put one of their big guards at the two. If Boyle wants to use a smaller lineup, Johnson can slide over and play the four, allowing Dinwiddie to share the perimeter with two of Colorado’s smaller guards. Tad Boyle will be able to create mismatches next season.
But they might disappoint because …: There is quite a bit of youth on this roster. The two veterans are Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, who are both juniors. Scott and Johnson are the elder statesmen because they are sophomores. Experience can be overrated in a sport dominated by one-and-done players, but Colorado’s freshmen aren’t exactly Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle. There is a learning curve here, and it may take a season or two for some of these guys to become capable of contributing at this level.
Along those same lines, Colorado’s lack of front court depth could be a problem if there is an injury or foul trouble. We know about Scott and Johnson, and 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon should slide in quite effectively as the four-man. But outside of those three, there isn’t much on this roster that is proven up front. Ben Mills has scored 40 points in three seasons. Dustin Thomas is a freshman that’s known more for his perimeter stroke than his physicality around the rim.
Outlook: There are two things that signify a quality basketball program: the ability to identify and develop talent that others don’t recognize, and being able to continue to grow as a team despite losing that talent earlier that expected. Twice in the last three years, Colorado has lost a player to early entry (Alec Burks and Roberson) that was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. And while Boyle didn’t recruit either of them, he was the one that put together this entire roster, one that has been built on under-the-radar talent and will head into this season as a top 25 team.
Can the Buffaloes win the Pac-12? Well, that’s a tough task considering that a) Arizona has a chance to be awesome this season and b) the conference will be as deep as it has been since Kevin Love and James Harden had normal facial hair. This is going to be one of those years where sixth place in the Pac-12 is two games behind first place, but anything short of at least one win in the NCAA tournament should be thought of as a disappointing year for these Buffaloes.