“Radar Contact” – Holy Innocents’ Will Hopkins

By: Keith Agran

ATLANTA, GA – Holy Innocents’ 2024 guard Will Hopkins plays a fast and stylish brand of ball. That has come from a combination of good genetics (his older brother AJ stars for Team Dickerson Prep’s post-grad team now), hard work and wise decisions about his future.

You can find him in the gym working like all the other players we’ve featured in this series, or you might bump into him down the line at a car show at Cobb Galleria or the Convention Center, marveling at other fast and stylish machines.

“I really have an interest in cars. This summer I might try to get an internship at a car dealership if I have time, it’s something I love doing knowing something about cars. I would love to learn how to fix cars, work on cars, don’t know how I’d get into that, but if my parents are looking for a new car or say something about a car, I’ll do a lot research on it, it’s a passion of mine.”

Attention to detail, great guards must possess it to some degree to get to the highest levels. And as we look back at his recent basketball journey, it was all in the details that got him to the red and gold off Mount Vernon Hwy.

“I knew it was a strong academic school. I knew a few people there before. When we found out Coach Mays got the head coaching spot, I reached out to see if we could make this work, it all went super quickly. I applied, I got accepted, I knew people there, I knew how the school was, and I was just happy to be a normal-sized school again.”

Coming from Valor Christian the year prior, with just 13 people in his freshman class, one can understand why he strove for more social and growth opportunities outside of the basketball side.

But it was interesting how Covid-19’s appearance on the scene in 2020 shaped his original move to Valor coming out of his 8th-grade year.

‘I used to train with Coach Greg (McClaire) at Core4, I heard he was starting a program, Covid was going through programs, it was a small program, off the grid, we could do our own thing, we could travel easier (not being part of the GHSA). We had 6 am practices, and we’d go in before school and work out, go to school, and then we could work out after if we wanted to. So Covid didn’t affect my situation as much as  maybe other people because of the uniqueness of Valor Christian. I was really just able to focus more on training with things closing down, I wasn’t able to go places, so it was either training or I was at home.”

It was during that time with McClaire he began to see the game differently, a little more analytical, which wasn’t all that shocking to hear after he all said about pouring over cars and studying the details online and while out on the road.

“He (McClaire) was the kind of a guy who would break down things to really tiny details. Why are you setting this back screen? Why are you only taking two steps to the side when you’re flashing? Because of the defensive positioning and where the help is, he really helped me with those things last year.”

Hopkins actually caught Covid early in the pandemic playing up with the Team Dickerson’s 16U group, and after quarantining for 2 weeks he didn’t come back to the older team and sat out the rest of that summer of 2020.

But he remains very much a Team Dickerson guy all the way, as has been his brother AJ. He has tremendous respect and loyalty toward (Director) Demond Stephens and all of Team Dickerson:

“I’m definitely sticking with Team Dickerson, my brother AJ has been with TD since his 10th-grade year, I love Demond, he’s become a family friend. I love his program, I love the way he lets us do our thing, if we’re hot he’s going to get us the ball. He knows how to get the best out of us, that’s what I love the most, he knows how to get things across to us, to be more high energy.”

His development through Team Dickerson surely has factored in his early success in his first year at HIES, but as most have noted in our series, there are differences between the winter and summer seasons that you have to manage:

“I feel like in AAU it’s more fast-paced, kind of more pick-up ball than school ball. In school ball, we run our sets, and our sets will help us score and get people open. The sets are there in place to get people in position to score, but in AAU people are more often scoring based on their individual talent and not really as a team. But school focuses more on that team aspect of basketball.”

He understands and embraces the differences between AAU ball and school ball, more of his very cerebral approach to the game.

“I feel like I’m equally comfortable (playing either). But I feel like school ball will definitely help on the next level. I watch a college game, some schools run a lot of sets, often times you use those sets to get in a position to score. In AAU, it’s more “iso-ball”, if you can shoot over someone you’re going to do it, but it might not always be the best option, you can get a layup off a back screen or something like that, a much more high-percentage shot. But if I had to pick, I’d probably pick the sets. But AAU is a LOT of fun.”

I like to think of Hopkins at this stage as very moldable, even as just a sophomore he’s got the qualities of both guard spots, and can easily move between them to fit what the game requires. But like all ballers who want to be great, he’s still working.

“One of the main things I’m trying to get better at it is more consistent scoring and the confidence that comes with it. The confidence to take the shots that I might drive into, the jumpers, or make one more extra pass that is a good pass. Need more confidence with the shots I take, keeping consistent numbers, improving my IQ, when to slow down the game, when to push it.”

Being versatile at 6-5 is clearly a trait that will serve him well on the recruiting trail, but he sees his future more with the ball in his hands.

“I’ve been focusing more on being a lead guard, because I can go by people, I can set up the offense, I can go by people and dish off. I can see over people to make those passes that a smaller guard might not be able to. I make sure the people that I train with know that’s what I want to be, but also if I need to play the wing because of how things are going, I’ll play it.”

Relationships and nurturing those connections are clearly important to both Will and the whole Hopkins clan, he expanded on how that has impacted his decisions in following family friends like Stephens as he pursues his basketball goals.

“We’re taught to respect people, my parents raised us to respect people, to be a blessing to other people that we’re around. I try to obviously stay on the good side of coaches, but I also try to be a kid they want around their team and want around them. So when I go to Demond’s workouts, I try to help out wherever I can, and (at HIES) I asked Coach Mays to help me develop into a leader on the court and in practices, and asked him to hold me to that standard.”

He teams at HIES with another rising star, this one 2025 Caleb Wilson, and he spoke about their exciting growth:

“I feel like it can be really special if we both buy into what the coaches are saying. If we really listen to them, if we hunker down on what they’re saying, if we believe in them and believe in each other, we can be really special in a few months, in a year, in two years. A pretty unstoppable duo next year or in a couple of years.”

“I think we’re up and down as a team even in practice, if we could be on a steady incline that would help. If we can keep going on that incline we can make a run, we’ve played good basketball, if we play good team basketball we can beat  a lot of teams people don’t expect us to beat.”

Things started picking up a bit in December on the recruiting front, but still being just a sophomore it was mostly informal. He didn’t wish to divulge the teams he spoke with, but you know this spring and summer those communications will pick up as he continues to add to his game and Team Dickerson gets out on the OTR Circuit and continues to draw eyeballs to whatever court they’re on.

Keith Agran has lived in Georgia since 2011 and joined OTR as a National Evaluator in 2021. He previously scouted for Prep Hoops dating back to 2019 and has both a championship-coaching background on the HS-level and daily newspaper writing experience, both from New Jersey. You can reach him at keithagran1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.