By KEVIN McNAMARA
In his nine seasons at Providence College, Ed Cooley has secured some major wins on the recruiting trail. Now he’s hoping for one of the biggest yet.
The Friars have emerged as a major contender for the services of Bryce Hopkins, a top 30 prospect who is regarded as one of the top rising seniors in the state of Illinois. Providence appears to be fighting Kentucky atop a short list that also includes Illinois and Indiana, although the Friars are seen as a legitimate dark horse in this recruiting race.
So how does Providence stand a chance against Kentucky and the Big Ten for a kid from Fenwick High School, a traditional Chicago-area power?
It seems that Hopkins owns East Coast roots, namely in New Bedford. That’s where his mother grew up. Her brother, Bobby Duarte, was a major high school star at New Bedford and starred at Stonehill College for former Hendricken coach Ray Pepin. Duarte did not play with Cooley at Stonehill but the two ex-Chieftains know each other well.
Hopkins spent a chunk of this summer in the New Bedford/Raynham area and visited the PC campus with his parents, although had limited contact with Cooley and the coaching staff because of COVID restrictions. The 6-7, 220-pound scoring forward had committed to Louisville in the fall of 2019 but backed off that pledge in August after seeing the Cardinals juggling with some potential NCAA sanctions from the Rick Pitino Era.
So just where do the Friars stand against a NBA factory like Kentucky, the home state Illini and Indiana? It’s tough to say but assorted recruiting analysts were buzzing in the last day or two about Providence’s chances to secure a major steal.
“Coach Ed Cooley is first class guy, a stand-up guy. Bryce really felt comfortable talking with him over Zoom calls,” Hopkins’ father, Clyde, told Peegs.com Monday. “Coach Cooley has been reaching out and recruiting him really hard. For us to get that from the head coach, that’s pretty big.”
Hopkins was an Illinois All-Stater as a junior at Fenwick, a school that happens to be run by the same order of priests (the Dominican Friars) as Providence College. In fact PC annually awards a scholarship to a deserving student from Fenwick High School. Hopkins 24 points, 10 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Hopkins is rated the 30th best player in the country by Rivals and 32nd by ESPN.
PC has one commitment in its Class of 2021 in Legend Geeter, an All-Stater from Michigan.
Kentucky is off to a slow start in its `21 class, but John Calipari annually attracts one of the top five classes in the country and fills it with potential one-and-done talent. Hopkins does not appear to be one of those players who is passing through college, so if he picks UK he would almost certainly have to compete with future NBA pros just to touch the floor.
Cooley and his staff have secured commitments from highly-ranked recruits like Hopkins before. Back in 2012 Providence landed guard Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn, both Top 30 players. Current guards David Duke and A.J. Reeves were also Top 50 targets. Dunn went on to an All-American career and was the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Neither Cooley or Calipari is allowed to visit with Hopkins and his family in Chicago. The NCAA is restricting coaches from leaving their campuses through Jan. 1, 2021 due to the coronavirus. This recruiting battle does appear to be reaching a crescendo with a decision from Hopkins likely within the next week or two, according to sources.