Bryce Hopkins is ready for college basketball


Kentucky Wildcats forward Bryce Hopkins (23) shoots a 3-pointer during the Kentucky men’s basketball Blue-White game on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jackson Dunavant

Cole Parke

It’s nearly that time again: basketball season in the Bluegrass.

The Cats are just two days away from their first exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan and spirits are high for Bryce Hopkins, a freshman forward out of Oak Park, Illinois. 

“We’ve been battling against each other all summer and in practice, so it’s going to be good to get out there and battle somebody else,” Hopkins said Wednesday. “This is going to be about the competition. I just want to go out there and do my best to help the team whether that’s in rebounds or on defense. Whatever it takes to get the [win].”

The Wildcats have been working hard this offseason after last season’s 9-16 record. It was the first season Kentucky had a losing record since the 1988-1989 season.

“I just go in everyday and give my best to show what I can bring to the table,” Hopkins said. “Me and Coach Chin [Coleman] would wake up at eight o’clock with some other guys and go to the gym for an hour before we have class at 9:30. We have practice again later at 2:30 with the whole team.”

Hopkins himself has also spoken a lot about the body transformation he’s undergone since he joined the team and began working out as a Wildcat.

“I want to keep on doing it, just making myself have a pro body,” he said about working out at Kentucky. “I believe when we took our little break in the summer, I put on eight pounds of muscle and trimmed down my body fat even more. I was like 228 [lbs] I think coming in and now I’m 222 [lbs], so I dropped like seven pounds and replaced some more with muscle. That’s been good for me, I feel a lot lighter on the court.”

The Wildcats’ roster changed significantly this offseason adding a multitude of transfers such as Kellan Grady from Davidson and boast a top-15 recruiting class in the country with names such as TyTy Washington, Daimion Collins and Hopkins. The Cats also have a lot of upperclassmen leadership on this season’s roster, something that was lacking in many of their prior teams.

“I believe in my role and giving all my effort,” Hopkins said. “My coach wants me to just stay low on defense and get a lot of rebounds for the team. That’s some of the biggest things we’ve been working on, that and just getting other guys the shots and stuff like that.”

The season’s rapid approach has certainly been felt in the locker room by both players and coaches alike. The Wildcats open up their regular season in the Champions Classic against Duke in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 9.

“The intensity has been picking up in practice,” Hopkins said. “Coach Coleman has been getting on us a lot just trying to keep us focused so when the games come around, we know our spots and where to be on the court and what we should expect.”

The team is ready for their first opportunity to put what they’ve worked on to the test in their exhibitions against Kentucky Wesleyan this weekend and Miles College next week.

“I would say chemistry is probably the biggest thing for us,” Hopkins said about the upcoming game. “We just want to see who gels with who and how different groups can play with each other and get comfortable with each other’s play-styles.”

The Wildcats exhibition with Kentucky Wesleyan is currently set for 7 p.m. this Friday Oct. 29 at Rupp Arena and will be aired live on the SEC Network.