Meet Jaron Hopkins. The 6-foot-5 freshman guard from Mesa, Ariz., gets the first shot at replacing injured Colorado standout Spencer Dinwiddie beginning with Thursday night's Pac-12 battle against No. 25 UCLA in the Coors Events Center. Hopkins has been CU's sixth man, contributing 5.4 points per game as the first player off the bench. He's now thrust into a starting role as the No. 21 Buffs (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12) try to overcome the absence of Dinwiddie's 14.7-point scoring average and, perhaps just as important, the loss of the junior's leadership and court savvy. "There's a little bit more weight on my shoulders," Hopkins acknowledged. "I'm going to have to grow up quick and mature." Dinwiddie will require surgery next week to repair the torn ACL in his left knee and is done for the season. There will be no easing into this transition. UCLA (13-3, 2-1) has one of the Pac-12's deepest rosters, particularly in the backcourt. Led by two sophomores, 6-5 guard Jordan Adams (18.1 ppg) and 6-9 swingman Kyle Anderson (15.3), UCLA averages a league-best 89.7 points for Pac-12 games. Backup freshman guards Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford (the coach's son) contribute energy and a combined 21 points per game. "UCLA is playing loose. They're playing confident," Boyle said. Boyle's first concern is working on ways to stop UCLA's high-powered offense. "What Jaron can do, with his size, is give us a defensive presence on the perimeter," Boyle said. "Jaron gives us great length, athleticism, size. Offensively, he can distribute the ball, shoot the ball, get the ball to the rim — a lot of things Spencer did. "Jaron has proven he can do it at this level. The big challenge is, can he do it consistently?" Hopkins, who once scored 43 points in a high school game, said he has tried to soak in everything that Dinwiddie has taught him. "Spencer is going to still be with us on the sideline," Hopkins said. "He's going to be coaching me, so I should be prepared." Hopkins shouldn't feel like he must fill the void himself, Boyle said. CU has two other point guards, sophomores Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer, to give Hopkins a breather. And with the team no longer counting on Dinwiddie's ability to make a play off the dribble, Boyle needs the system to create additional scoring opportunities for others, particularly for the Buffs' talented frontcourt of 6-10 Josh Scott, 6-7 Xavier Johnson and 6-9 Wesley Gordon. Scott (13.6 ppg) knows he must become even more involved offensively. "I think my role has changed," Scott said. "It feels like I have moved up a year. I think we all do."
With Jaron Hopkins manning the point, Colorado must find a way vs. UCLA
Denver Post | Jan 16