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“I’ve learned to listen more”: Mike Hopkins discusses coronavirus, racial injustice, and transfers

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“I’ve learned to listen more”: Mike Hopkins discusses coronavirus, racial injustice, and transfers

Washington men's basketball head coach Mike Hopkins watches as his team shoot a free throw in Washington's 77-70 loss to Arizona in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Mar. 11, 2020. 

With everything happening in the world right now, Mike Hopkins is trying to slow things down. 

“It’s been an amazing learning experience,” Hopkins said. “I’m still learning, but to be able to slow down, be more aware, has been a great thing for me, and I think it’s been a great thing for a lot of people.”

As the country deals with the fallout of COVID-19 and renewed calls for social justice, the Washington men’s basketball head coach opened his press conference Thursday discussing police reform, racial injustice, and voting. Hopkins noted his team has held numerous conversations surrounding the issues in recent weeks.

Following the police shootings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and many more, the Huskies have focused their team meetings on social justice issues. Dr. Alexes Harris, a sociology professor at the UW, has been leading these conversations along with Hopkins.

“We actually did almost a civics 101 course with how decisions are made and what to look for in voting,” Hopkins said. “Dr. Harris did an incredible job. I’m 51 years old and it was a learning experience for me.”

Noting that listening is the best way to learn, Hopkins was adamant about using the last few months to slow down, take a step back, and be present by listening to his players, his family, and his peers about their feelings surrounding current issues.

In addition to the team meetings, Hopkins said that the UW Athletic Department, along with the Pac-12 conference, is planning on pushing the importance of voting in the coming weeks around election season. All 46 players, coaches, and staff members of the UW basketball team are registered to vote.

“We’ve got some stuff coming up, really exciting” Hopkins said. “Where our program, our school, and the Pac-12 is really going to try and get people out there to vote. Try and use our platform to really encourage that’s where real change will be made.”

Summer training and transfers

In the six weeks since the players came back to campus, the team has adopted a new routine in smaller groups, or "Pods" as Hopkins called them, as allowed by local health officials, which allows the Huskies to spend an hour in the weight room and 45 minutes in the gym.

With uncertainty surrounding the future schedule, Hopkins is trying to live in the moment. 

“You can only control today,” he said. “How can we get better? And then when you leave, how can you be disciplined enough to keep your teammates and everybody else safe by being responsible, wearing a mask — just those daily reminders. 

“We are going to have a season, I really believe that. The key is that when that season starts, we are ready to do that.”

Hopkins noted he has been impressed with a number of players this summer, including junior transfer Erik Stevenson from Wichita State.

A Washington native, he had been recruited by Hopkins out of high school, and after two years at Wichita State, he is back in the Evergreen State and awaiting word from the NCAA whether he will be granted immediate eligibility for the upcoming season.

“Erik is a guy that has been proven at the highest level,” Hopkins said. “He’s a guy that can really, really shoot it. I’m really bullish about him, not just as a player, but he’s got a great competitive spirit that is elite. I think that rubs off on a lot of people, the toughness, the grittiness.”

The Huskies also have another guard transfer, sophomore Cole Bajema from Michigan, and are waiting to see if he will be eligible for the 2020-2021 season.

With a plethora of guards on the roster, Hopkins hinted at getting more playmakers on the court this season by possibly featuring a four-guard lineup.

Throwing in Bajema and Stevenson into a group of guards that includes Quade Green, Nahziah Carter, Marcus Tsohonis, RaeQuan Battle, and Jamal Bey who all started at least one game at guard last year, makes the four-guard lineup an appealing option.

Reach reporter Anthony Edwards at Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb

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