If there's one thing Bryce Hopkins can't live without, it's basketball. And it's been that way ever since he was a little baby.
"When I was born, my parents always told me stories -- I always had a ball in my hand," Hopkins said.
Almost two decades later, Hopkins has grown from a tiny newborn to a physical, 6-foot, 7-inch specimen, but that love for basketball remains unchanged.
"I just love it," said Hopkins with a smile. "I couldn't picture myself without playing basketball."
Lucky for the Fenwick senior, his hoops career is just beginning. On Wednesday afternoon, Hopkins officially signed his National Letter of Intent to play college basketball at Kentucky. The four-star recruit turned down 25 other schools - including Illinois, Indiana and Providence - to choose the Wildcats.
"I was always watching them on TV, and I just wanted to dream for myself to be in that position when I grow up as a senior, and put myself on the best stage I could, and it’s just a true blessing," Hopkins said.
Fenwick head boys basketball coach Staunton Peck can't say enough good things about Hopkins, and in a testament to Hopkins' character, very little of it has to do with his basketball ability.
"His attitude and personality and humility hasn't changed since his freshman year," Peck said. "He came into Fenwick smiling, interacting with all his teachers, being a good student. He's the exact same way today."
That positive attitude played an important role in the versatile forward's journey to joining Kentucky. As a freshman at Fenwick, Hopkins rode the bench for the Friars varsity team. He was an emerging national recruit, but he still had to pay his dues and wait his turn. Peck says Hopkins handled the experience flawlessly.
"His response wasn't that we were doing something wrong, or, 'I should be playing more,' Peck remembered. "It was, 'I need to work on my game, I need to get better.'"
Hopkins says watching from the sideline wasn't easy, but he knows the experience helped him grow.
"It was kind of hard for me because growing up, I was always playing a lot, and coming in as my freshman year on varsity, I wasn’t playing a lot," said Hopkins. "[But] watching the players on the bench my freshman year, that was a learning experience for me and I got to see how hard they went, and it helped me for my next year as a sophomore."
Hopkins is hopeful he'll get to play his senior season at Fenwick, but whether or not that happens, he can't wait to move to Lexington, Kentucky, and play for legendary coach John Calipari. Because of the pandemic, Hopkins has never met Calipari in-person, but he's confident the Wildcats sideline boss is the right person to help him achieve his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.
"I know what his resume is, I know how he gets his players to the next level," Hopkins said. "He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He keeps it 100% real. He told me that nothing is guaranteed. I love that, because nothing was given to me growing up. So I’m just going to have to go in, work, do what I do, and stay level headed."
Peck has very little doubt Hopkins will do exactly that and eventually be playing at the highest level.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if his sophomore or junior years at Kentucky, he’s one of the best players in the country," Peck said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing in the NBA in a few years. I think that’s the kind of talent he has, and he couples that with his work ethic and ability to face down hard times and overcome them. I think the sky is the limit for Bryce."
Whatever basketball has in store for him, Hopkins looks forward to continuing to pursue his dreams while doing the thing he loves most.
"I just can't wait," he said. "Very excited for the journey."