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Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins commits to Kentucky

The Fenwick senior, who decommitted from Louisville in August, gave Kentucky and coach John Calipari a commitment Monday. 

Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) shoots the ball over a Rolling Meadows defender.
Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) shoots the ball over a Rolling Meadows defender.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Fenwick senior Bryce Hopkins is still headed to the Bluegrass State.

Hopkins, who decommitted from Louisville in August, gave Kentucky and coach John Calipari a commitment Monday.

With the commitment, the Wildcats landed the state’s second-ranked prospect in the Class of 2021 and one of the top 30 players in the country.

“When they offered, it was a bit of a dream come true,” said Hopkins, a 6-6 forward. “As a kid, it was one of my dream schools. I watched them on TV, knew of their great history, the résumé of the program and all the players they have sent to the NBA. It’s a program that has always stood out.”

Before the pandemic, there were few players who spent more time visiting college coaching staffs than Hopkins. He took close to 20 unofficial visits during the first recruiting process, committing to Louisville almost a year ago.

But Kentucky initially wasn’t one of the many visits he took or offers he received.

The landscape, though, began to change when Kentucky made an offer in August. Though there were no recruiting visits allowed because of the pandemic, Hopkins and his family took their own trip to Kentucky in the middle of September to get a feel for Lexington and the campus. The momentum soon began to shift toward the Wildcats.

Hopkins says the toughest part of his second recruiting go-round was the actual decommitment because “I really liked Louisville and those guys.’’

It’s why he wanted to take his time, waiting nearly two months to commit after receiving the Kentucky offer.

Through multiple Zoom conferences, phone calls and texts with Calipari and the Kentucky staff, a comfort level began to develop.

“We started to make a real connection, I think, just after our second Zoom and kept in touch and established a relationship,” Hopkins said about the Kentucky coaches. “The one thing that stood out the most to me with the basketball is all that they do in developing their players.’’

Since Calipari arrived in 2009, Kentucky has had 38 players taken in the NBA Draft, including 25 lottery picks.

A highly regarded prospect early in his career, Hopkins burst onto the scene as a sophomore while putting up huge numbers for the Friars. He emerged as a national recruit, then followed it up with a junior season in which he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Fenwick coach Staunton Peck has watched Hopkins’ growth as a player each year. Based on the foundation Hopkins had going for him, Peck wasn’t surprised to see the steady improvement.

“What really helped him succeed and improve is having great parents at home,” Peck said. “There was a solid base for him that provided the same message from home that we tried to instill. There was great support there for him.”

Hopkins, who had Indiana, Illinois and Providence on his short list at the end, joins a long line of players from Illinois who have headed to Kentucky over the years, including Antoine Walker, Nazr Mohammed, DeAndre Liggins, Anthony Davis and Tyler Ulis — all NBA draft picks. But he will be the first to have committed to rival Louisville first before changing his mind and heading 80 miles east to Lexington.

“I’m sure a lot of [Louisville fans] will be in my ear,” Hopkins said. “That’s something I’ll have to deal with and just try to ignore.”

Hopkins is Kentucky’s second commitment from the Class of 2021, joining four-star point guard Nolan Hickman out of Utah.