Mikael Hopkins (206-F-1993, college: Georgetown) is a 29 year old 206cm forward from Hyattsville, Maryland that has played professionally for 7 years and last played with Unahotels Reggio Emilia (Italy-Serie A) averaging 13.1ppg, Reb-3 (7.5rpg), 1.4apg, FGP: 50.6%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 74.7%. He began his basketball career at Dematha high school an dthen played at Georgetown (NCAA) from 2011-2015 playing a total of 127 games. He began his professional career in 2015 in Turkey where he played 4 seasons as well as in Bulgaria and Slovenia. He recently had the great opportunity to battle at the 2022 Euro with Hungary.He spoke to germanhoops.com about his time at the Euro.
Thanks Mikael for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
I’m currently in Italy and I can say basketball life is good. About to start the season that’s always fun especially when you have new teammates and coaches. I’m just ready to get started.
You just played at the 2022 European Championships with Hungry. It is rare for Americans to be in a situation like this. Guys like Thad Mcfadden, Nick Weiler-Babb and Mike Tobey are some other guys for example. How did this great opportunity come about for you?
My agent presented the opportunity at the beginning of last season and I told him that I would definitely be happy to represent Hungary.
In a span of 5 days you played against Slovenia, France, Lithuania and Germany. Is it fair to say that that was the best competition you have ever played against as a professional with all the NBA guys you battled against?
Yea playing in the euro basket was crazy. Just all the talent on the court each night it was good to go against guys that play in the NBA and euro league level. The entire atmosphere was crazy and I’m happy I was able to play in it.
What kind of an experience was it playing against Luka Doncic. He had a good game but a few days later scorched Germany and France for 83 points combined. It all seems so automatic for him. What amazes you most about his game?
Luka is Luka he just a special talent. They craziest thing about his game is his pace. He never allows the defense to speed him up and also his shot making ability some of the shots he makes. Leave you asking how did he make that?
You didn’t win a game and averaged 8/3. What do you take away from this competition? Did you get to meet some players during off time that you really happy you could?
Yea we didn’t win a game but I was still able to compete and represent something other than myself but an entire country. And I saw all of the NBA guys we were all in the same hotel and sharing the same eating areas and elevators.
Last season you played for Unahotels Reggio Emilia (Italy-Serie A). After playing in Turkey, Slovenia and Croatia, what kind of an experience has it been hooping in Italy? How do you feel has your game profited from the style?
I love Italy. I think the league has good energy and excitement. A lot of the clubs want to put up a lot of points and that is always fun. I think the league fits my style because most teams don’t have really tall five position so I don’t have to deal with guarding bigger guys. And also I’m able to show my versatility being able to stretch the floor and play from the mid post.
You have played 7 pro seasons and remain so consistent. Do you have a special secret besides putting in the work every day in the gym crafting your game?
Only secret is to keep working and believe in yourself.
Would you agree that you’re a modern day forward in 2022? You have really developed a reliable outside shot in Slovenia.
Yea I think l am what a modern day forward would look like. My ability to shoot from the out side and also punish mismatch on switching is what every team would want. I honestly think I could play at the euro league level just haven’t had the opportunity.
You’re an incredible defender and great shot blocker. What NBA defender was always your role model and how would you describe your defensive game in 2022?
I don’t think I’m as good as a defender as Draymond Green or PJ Tucker but these are the guys I like to watch because they guard multiple positions but most of the time guys that are bigger than them. My role last season was to guard the ball screen, with hedging principal.
You played 2 seasons with KK Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-ABA League). Was this your most enjoyable time? You won a title and reached a final. Talk a little about your memories.
Cedevita was a great experience all around that was my first time playing at a high level as a pro and yes I was able to win a league championship. But the best experience would have to be playing against Red Star and Partizan. These are the type of environment you dream of playing in. Those fans really really love their teams.
What was it like being teammates with tough German Maik Zirbes? How were those battles in the paint during practice?
Big Maik that’s my guy. I honestly didn’t have to battle much with him in the paint. That year I played the four position so I didn’t have to wrestle with him. But he was a great teammate great person.
You played with Balkan Botevgrad (Bulgaria-NBL) winning a title and averaging 16.5ppg, Reb-4 (9.2rpg), 2.1apg, 1.1spg, Blocks-4 (1.1bpg), FGP: 61.5%, 3PT: 33.9%, FT: 80.4%; and in the FIBA Europe Cup averaging 14.7ppg, Reb-4 (8.3rpg), 2.4apg, Blocks-1 (2.1bpg), FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 79.4%. What was special about this team in that season?
Balkan was the year everything started to change for me. I had great teammates but the main thing was coach Vidic. He believed in me and he trusted me and with that trust he allowed me to play the way I wanted. He was the first coach that really allowed me to show my versatility shooting dribbling post up. I had a lot of fun playing in Balkan and I will always love the club and team.
You played your first 3 seasons in Turkey. How vital was this time in your development and does it bother you that you never got an opportunity to play in the Turkish first division?
Playing in Turkey second league kind of made me the player I am now I was able to build my confidence as a pro. Even though I didn’t win many games I became a better offensive player because in that league the Americans have to score and you have to do it every game so that is where I kind of established that mentality. I still have some years left maybe I’ll end up there one day.
In 2017-2018 you split time with Yalova Group Belediye Spor (Turkey-TBL) averaging 16.1ppg, 10.3rpg, 1.5apg, 1.3spg, 1.0bpg, 2FGP: 45.6%, 3FGP: 50.0%, FT: 81.9%, in Dec.’17 moved to Samsun BSB Anakent (Turkey-TBL) averaging 12.7ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 80.0%. What was it like spending time with 2 teams? You definitely put up good stats. Were the stays in some way memorable?
I enjoyed every year in Turkey all of the teams were a part of my journey and think it was good for me as a player.
What was it like being reunited with Hoyas teammate Markel Starks? Is he another good example of too many great guards in the world and too little NBA spots?
That was a lot of fun being able to play on the professional level with one of my childhood friends and college teammates. If anybody know Markel Starks he likes to work so he pushed me each day to get better and we also used to compete to see who would have better stats after the game so I think that helped both of us out.
In 2016-2017 you played with Samsunspor DSI (Turkey-TBL) averaging 14.2ppg, 10.8rpg, 1.1apg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 73.7%. Your second season averaging double double stats. How refreshing was it proving twice early in your pro career that you could be so much more than just a role player in the NCAA?
In Samsun It was nice showing that I could be the main focal point of a team. That’s every players ‘dream. I just wish I was able to win more games but the stats I was putting up were great for my second year as a pro. Especially when I was known for being a role player it just showed that I was working.
You played your rookie season with Istanbul DSI (Turkey-TBL) averaging 16.6ppg, Reb-4 (10.9rpg), 1.1spg, Blocks-4 (1.6bpg), FGP: 52.9%, FT: 77.6%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being in Turkey and overseas where you knew that you were very far away from home?
My rookie year was tough. I knew my main focus was to be aggressive offensively and score or just put up good stats but that wasn’t the case. Those stats did nothing for me in the long run except build my confidence. I think if I would have won more games or been on more competitive teams I would not have spent my first three years in second division Turkey. Winning is honestly the most important thing in Europe and I had to learn that early.
How important was American Derek Williams for you as a rookie? Was he like a mentor for you? What was your fondest moment with him?
Derrick Williams was a great first teammate he had played in the same league the year before and he took me under his wing and just showed me how to deal with the management and coaches. But I enjoyed building a relationship with him we were together every day. I also had another American teammate that year Frank Robinson another great guy and I’m happy to call both of them big brothers.
You played at Georgetown (NCAA) from 2011-2015. That freshman team was incredible with great players like Otto Porter, Hollis Thompson, Henry Sims and Greg Whittingen. I always thought that was the team to win it all. Did the team underachieve?
Playing at Georgetown we had some great teams. I don’t think we underachieved, college basketball is tough and it’s a lot of great teams So I think we made the best of each other those years.
How special was the senior team? It reached the NCAA tournament not having the great talent of the freshman squad. How much fun was it finishing your career on that team?
Senior year was cool I had built relationships with guys that are life long brothers and we were able to make it to the big dance. The young freshmen had proved all year that they were ready to keep the basketball tradition alive Georgetown and honestly for me playing at Georgetown was a dream come true I’m from Washington DC so that’s all I knew growing up. And the radition there was crazy with future big name NBA guys.
How did legendary head coach John Thompson groom and prepare you bets for a professional basketball career?
Coach Thompson just constantly reminding us that if you wanted to take this game far you have to treat it like a job not just a game. And he knew the importance of hard work and also winning. It was a blessing being able to get to know him because he just stood for something bigger than himself. He changed the life of all basketball players that looked like me.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Otto Porter?
Me and Otto Never played but I would have won. He didn’t weigh enough in college haha
Who was the toughest player that you encountered in the NCAA that would reach the NBA?
The Toughest cover was Doug Mcdermot
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads.
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time
Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
I haven’t seen the sequel. I’m going to check it out
Thanks Mikael for the chat.