The 6-foot-5, 190 pound freshman from Meza, Arizona is in the best possible position for a first year player: learning from another seasoned, successful "big" point guard in 6-foot-6 junior Spencer Dinwiddie.
Patience, however, will be the key for Hopkins. With Dinwiddie firmly entrenched as Colorado's primary facilitator, Hopkins won't be counted on to start as a freshman, like Dinwiddie was. Dinwiddie has started every game for Colorado from the moment he set foot in Boulder.
Additionally, Hopkins will battle sophomores Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton for minutes at the point. Talton, in particular, has stood out with his improved play in Colorado's practices.
Head coach Tad Boyle has the luxury of bringing Hopkins along slowly. It will benefit Hopkins in the long run.
Hopkins dominated high school basketball in Arizona, playing for Dobson High School. As a senior, Hopkins averaged 22.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game. But the transition from high school basketball in Arizona to college basketball is no easy task. Especially for Hopkins, who played on and off the ball at Dobson.
"Up to my junior year I played the point most of the time," Hopkins said. "In my senior year I played off the ball, the two and three."
Not being a full-time point guard throughout his entire high school career has made the transition to point guard for Colorado a bit difficult for Hopkins.
"Learning the position is really tough because I have to learn all the sets," Hopkins said. "Adjusting to that is really tough, but I'm coming along."
Hopkins knows he's very fortunate to learn from Dinwiddie, a point guard projected to be picked 19th in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft by DraftExpress. "I've learned a lot," Hopkins said. "I've learned all the ways he gets by people, and how he surveys the floor. Being a big point guard is tough to defend."
Dinwiddie has noticed Hopkins and what he brings to the table for Colorado. He likes what he sees. "Jaron is extremely talented," Dinwiddie said. "He's 6-5, 190. He's probably more athletic than I am even now, as far as jumping. He's got a chance to be very, very special at this school."
At the same time, Dinwiddie realizes that Hopkins is adjusting to the position and to college basketball. "He's just, you know gotta slow it down a little bit and get used to playing at this speed," Dinwiddie said. "Once he consistently starts working really hard and just playing every play hard and having a dedication to defense and offense at the same time, the sky's the limit for him."
Boyle agrees with Dinwiddie's assessment of Hopkins, and knows Hopkins best days are ahead of him. "I think aggressiveness is gonna be the whole key with Jaron," Boyle said. "Just staying focused and playing every possession like its the last possession. If he can get that sense of urgency on a consistent basis, Jaron Hopkins is gonna be as good as anybody in our program. He could be a special player. I'm excited about Jaron and his development."
Boyle knows he has to temper his expectations of not only Hopkins, but the rest of the true freshmen on the roster. "Again, he's a freshman, I don't wanna expect too much," Boyle said. "There's gonna be ups and downs and its gonna be a roller coaster like most freshmen years are, but he's got the talent. In some cases our freshmen might get worse before they get better. Just because they're being so bogged down mentally with what's being thrown at them." Although Hopkins is expected to be a significant contributor in the future, he can still help out as a freshman for Colorado. "The thing that Jaron brings is not only the ball handling ability, but his ability to guard," Boyle said. "Being 6-5 and as athletic as he is. Hopefully he can be a really good defender for us. He can make open shots. He can create for himself and he can create for his teammates. In that sense he's a lot like Spencer and Ski. Hopefully Jaron will help alleviate some pressure from Spencer. It'll allow Spencer to get off the ball sometimes." Hopkins knows where his bread and butter will be as a freshman: fastbreak opportunities. "Pushing the tempo is my best feature because I can score in transition," Hopkins said. "I can pass in transition and get guys open shots." Through Colorado's first two weeks of practice, Hopkins has excelled in transition. Hopkins has created for himself and others when he's been able to push the tempo and get up and down. Colorado will look to push the tempo even more this year, as well as press, and that style of play is tailored for Hopkins strengths on the court. Being an Arizona native, two games really excite Hopkins. Those games will take place in late January, a time most freshmen have their roles on their teams solidified. January 23rd and January 25th are two days Hopkins is really looking forward too. Colorado takes on Pac-12 foes Arizona and Arizona State then. "I've had a lot of people looking forward to those games," Hopkins said glowingly as his eyes lit up. "Hopefully we can get some wins out of those games." Hopkins is a freshman point guard, learning the most demanding position on the court. His best days lie ahead of him. Tad Boyle knows this. Jaron Hopkins this. If all goes according to plan, Spencer Dinwiddie will have a more than capable replacement when he's gone. The "big" point guard torch will be passed onto Hopkins.