Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
Ask an 18-year-old Reneya Hopkins if she would have ever seen herself playing Division I college basketball.
If you had the ability to travel back in time and ask her that question, the answer would likely be what it is today: No.
Lightly recruited out of Midwest City High School in Oklahoma, Hopkins made the decision of playing at the junior college level. While she did not receive a copious amount of offers in high school, one school did come calling, frequently. The school? Emporia State. The head coach? One Jory Collins, the current head coach of North Dakota State’s women’s program.
While Collins had placed an offer to Hopkins in high school, by the time she needed to make a decision, Collins had moved onto Kansas. Not wanting to adjust to new staff and without the familiarity with Collins, Hopkins opted to attend Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma.
Hopkins went on to become an all-conference performer for Redlands, averaging 14 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Cougars.
Her performance at the junior college level once again caught the eye of Collins, who was now at North Dakota State. The two rekindled their conversations and Hopkins opted to play for Collins and the Bison. Prior to talking to Collins, Hopkins had no knowledge of Fargo or North Dakota State. After taking a visit and seeing the culture of the athletic department, she was in.
Despite jumping from the junior college level to Division I, Hopkins has proven to be a high-caliber talent for Collins. She has had seven games where she scored in double figures for the Bison while shooting a solid 36 percent clip from the field.
Safe to say, plenty of coaches looked past Reneya Hopkins, but not Jory Collins. Now, she is in a position she never thought she would be.
What was your decision-making process to start out at a junior college?
Coming out of high school, I didn’t really have any offers. I was talking to Jory [Collins] when he was at Emporia State. That was really the only person I was talking to and everybody else, they weren’t really giving me offers. Then Jory went on to Kansas and that Emporia State idea fell through. So, I went to Redlands, because that was my only offer at the time.
How do you think junior college better prepares you for making that leap to Division I? That’s a big leap, not only in the quality of play, but also the regiment that you guys go through.
Junior college is every man for himself. Everybody is just playing extra hard at that level because they want to get to that next level. I just think of the toughness you need in JuCo. I think that prepared me for the toughness needed at this level.
Once Jory came here, was NDSU a destination that you had your eyes set on because you had those previous conversations with Jory?
I actually stopped talking to Jory for a minute. So I had no clue about NDSU. They came to a game and we were in Texas, and I start talking to him again. It just kind of just came out of the blue.
What attracted you to NDSU besides Jory being here?
I mean, I knew nothing about it until I came on my visit. I went to a football game and I loved like the culture here. I think the culture itself attracted me here the most. I kind of just took a jump into the deep end without knowing too much about it.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in you making this transition beyond maybe just the quality of basketball that you’re going up against?
Just adapting to a whole new environment. I have never been in a place like this so it’s just adapting to everything around me.
What have been some of your biggest growth points that you’d like to continue to see yourself grow in throughout the rest of this season?
Adapting because it’s not easy. Overcoming that and really growing into the area. Coming from Oklahoma to here, it’s very different. It’s just overcoming most of that stuff.
Was there a moment where you took a step back, maybe in a game or in a practice, and noticed the level of basketball you were playing at? Did you ever take a step back and thought ‘this is the pinnacle of college women’s college basketball’?
In JuCo, if a team was losing, they would have given up in a game like that.
Here, we just keep playing and we keep grinding it out. Back inJuCo, we would have just lost. We would have just quit.
Dating back to your junior college career or maybe the latter half of your high school, could you have ever seen yourself in a position like this? Not only playing Division I but playing against programs like Kansas and Iowa State?
Every kid has that dream, but it feels like a one in a million shot to play at a level. I had that vision, but honestly, I probably didn’t think I will be the one to do it.
On our 2016 state championship at Midwest City, I just remember my dad told me that only one of us is going to play at Division I. I wasn’t thinking it was going to be me. I was the sophomore on the team playing with seniors. I was looking at them like they would be the ones to get to this level. I’m the only one from that team that went Division I. This is kind of unreal in a way for me.
What are some of the strengths that you have in your game that you bring to the table for this program?
No matter how the game is going, whether it is good or bad, I just bring in some energy. I always want to uplift my teammates because maybe they’ll get hot. Maybe I’m not having such a good game, but just being a sparkplug and that energy source for the team. I feel like that is my strong point.
Where do you guys want to see yourselves improve and continue
to take little steps here and there to make sure that you’re playing the best basketball in March?
We’re a very young team and we are capable of making plays. The important thing is growing in our execution. Sometimes we just get out of whack and our talent alone gets us buckets. Executing what Jory is telling us to do is the most important thing. He is very smart and he knows what is best.