It is never news when Hopkins wins. Hopkins has been in the news this year, then, with an unwanted regularity. Paradoxically, this is not to say that Hopkins--boys or girls--have been losing...much. The girls are 8-0 and, though there've been a couple of close calls. they're out-scoring their opponents by an average of 65-46. The boys are 4-1 with a surprising loss to Tartan (88-85), but they're out-scoring their opponents by an average of 80-64.
And yet, as I said, they've been in the news for something other than winning a little more than usual.
There is of course that loss to Tartan. And there are two 11-point wins, closer than Hopkins is accustomed to--73-62 over Centennial and 85-74 over Lakeville South--especially considering that neither of these 2 is rated.
And Tuesday night it is possible--I won't say likely, but certainly possible--that the Royals will drop to 4-2, as they'll travel to pre-season #1 Apple Valley, where they'll face the best player in Minnesota in Tyus Jones. (The best player in Minnesota is supposed to play for Hopkins, after all!). But of course Apple Valley has also already suffered a surprising loss this fall, 72-70 to Park Center, and is no longer rated #1. So maybe this game is a toss-up, maybe the home court makes the Eagles the favorite, maybe Tyus Jones makes 'em the favorite but, again, it doesn't matter who's favored, it matters who wins.
Look at the Hopkins starting lineup. There's no Mr. Basketball here--no Kris Huphries, no Blake Hoffarber, no Royce White, no Joe Coleman, no Siyani Chambers. But, wait, there is junior Kamali Chambers who may yet become the player his brother was. And now that I think of it, Amir Coffey, who is already the favorite for Mr. Basketball 2016. Chambers scored 15 ppg, Jake Wright 14, Nick Johnson 13, Coffey 12 and Jamal Davis 12. Suddenly, balance is the word in Hopkins.
So, despite the early loss and the close calls and the lack of an obvious, dominant, Mr. Basketball type of player right now today, let's at least wait until Tuesday to declare that the Hopkins dynasty is dead. And whose to say that Wednesday morning mayn't dawn with the Royals very much among the Class AAAA contenders.
Da girls will be AAAA contenders, and even AAAA favorites, no matter what. But there's been a bit of "what," as in WTF, so far this year. I mean specifically the loss of sophomore guards Viria Livingston and T. T. Starks to ACL injuries just 2 weeks apart in December. Starks is widely regarded as the best in her class with Livingston generally rated top 3 or top 5 at worst.
And there's those close calls--one, a 65-61 win over Kennedy, even came before Livingston and Starks went down. The 2nd, a 69-62 win over Lakeville North, came after. But there's also an impressive 47-25 win over #1AA rated Providence since the 2 went down.
Senior forward and Ms. Basketball contender Nia Coffey is leading with 14 points and 9 boards per game. Forward Mikaala Shackleford, coming back from an ACL herself, isn't lighting it up yet but she never was a big scorer. Her 2.5 steals per game suggest that her mibility is OK. The post is shared by the O'Tooles, senior Erin and junior Molly, who combine to take 9 boards per game. The guards are now senior Taylor Anderson and 9th grader Nia Hollie, who combine for 6 assists and 5 steals.
The bench features senior Alexis Garcia (2 assists per game) and Aislinn Cornell, and 9th graders Ashley Bates and K'Aezha Wubben. But the Royals' margin of error has gotten thinner, that's for sure--their ability to cope with fouls or adjust to bad match-ups or absorb another injury.
So let's be honest. There isn't a team in the state that wouldn't take their chances with Coffey and Anderson and a 90 percent Shackleford and whomever else shows up healthy, willing and able. Hopkins will be fine. We only hope that eventually the same is true of Livingston and Starks.
But looking ahead to 2014 and beyond, the playing time that the 9th graders are getting--Hollie, Bates and Wubben--is only going to make the Royals tougher and tougher. These 3 plus Livingston and Starks as juniors and seniors in 2015 could still be Hopkins' best team ever. No, wait, don't say that!
But it is true that the injuries make it at least plausible that somebody might come up with an upset in 2013. Before Livingston and Starks went down, it was pretty much unimaginable that the Royals would not repeat. Now, if you're a gamblin' man, you can at least put 'em on the board. Call it 1-to-3. For the boys 3-to-1.