The head coaches at Arizona and Arizona State have to recruit in-state players. The problem with that notion is that players in Arizona have been sporadic. Since the dawn of the McDonald’s All-American Game, only five Arizonans have made the cut. There were two in the 1980’s, two in the 90’s and one in 2007. That’s it. Therefore, the Wildcats and Sun Devils have had to import talent -- until now.
This year, the state has an ESPN 100 player in Jaron Hopkins (Basha, Ariz./Chandler) and talent coming behind him in the 2014 and 2015 classes. All of the sudden it seems like Arizona, as a talent producer, is onto something.
“They’re posting on message boards that [the state of] Arizona is becoming an elite power,” Hopkins said. “Guys are getting better and it’s starting to rub off.”
Elite power? Maybe not, but exciting for the first time in a while? We’ll give it that. Hopkins points to Arizona State guard Jahii Carson as part of the resurgence.
“I like to use Jahii Carson as an example. Everyone in the state knows who he is and they want to be like him. They want to get offers like him. He could commit anywhere he wanted to go. Those guys are role models for us.”
Hopkins, who said Arizona is recruiting him hardest, might find himself in the Carson category. With a strong spring and early summer, he nudged his way into the ESPN 100 at No. 49. Listed as a shooting guard, Hopkins has options.
“Right now, I’ll give it to Arizona,” Hopkins said. “U of A’s been watching me ever since I was a freshman. They’ve been recruiting me the hardest of all. I was just down at USC and they’re recruiting me pretty hard. Washington State, Colorado, Penn State, Auburn and I’ve been getting interest from Kansas lately too.”
The in-state kids in the next wave will have their eye on Hopkins, the top prospect in the 2013 class from Arizona. The following season, Payton Dastrup (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View), Elston Jones (Goodyear, Ariz./Millennium), Dorian Pickens (Cave Creek, Ariz./Pinnacle) and Kodi Justice (Mesa, Ariz./Dobson) in addition to point guard Casey Benson (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol) are noteworthy.
Justice is already committed to Arizona State.
Back to Hopkins. Before he becomes the standard bearer for the next wave, he’s got to negotiate his own recruiting waters and settle in on a position. The 6-foot-3 wing has a position dilemma on his hands. He’s a big-time athlete who is outgrowing and out leaping the point guard position. Hopkins has seen time at the point, 2-guard and small forward. He likes to play the point but he likes to score too. Tough to blame him since he’s got game inside the arc and a finishing move in the lane.
“To be a high-major point guard I’ve got to tighten up my handle and get more guys involved instead of scoring which is what I like to do most,” Hopkins said. “I’d have to get more assists to get my teammates more involved. For me, I just want to win. If that’s getting 11 assists and no points, that’s fine.”
Hopkins' current ranking is not easily lost on him. He knows the deal. Hold up his end of the bargain and rankings work themselves out. “I’ve seen guys drop just as quick as they move up. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay and maintain [my position].”