Chelsea Hopkins: No Passing Fancy
March 14, 2013
By Mick McGrane
LAS VEGAS --- For her next trick, Chelsea Hopkins will assist in the reconstruction of the Pantheon, Parthenon and the Great Pyramid of Giza, all of which should consume roughly the span of an afternoon, notwithstanding a nap.
Hopkins, who may well be the best passer on any team --- men's or women's --- taking part in the 2013 Reese's Mountain West Championship, eclipsed the league tournament record and finished with a personal-best 14 assists Thursday as No. 1 seed San Diego State made short work of No. 9 seed Nevada, 67-39, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The Aztecs (25-5), who won their 16th straight game, advanced to Friday's semifinals where they will meet No. 5 seed New Mexico at noon PT. SDSU swept the Lobos during the regular season, winning the two games by an average of 26 points.
To put Hopkins' performance into perspective, consider: She had 12 assists on SDSU's 12 baskets in the first half. She finished with nine more assists than the Wolf Pack had as a team. Only two other Aztec players ---- senior guard Courtney Clements and junior guard Kiyana Stamps --- had assists for SDSU.
In moving into fourth place on the school's all-time career assists list, Hopkins surpassed Crystal Lee, who holds the SDSU record for assists in a single game with 16.
"That's why she was the (MW) Player of the Year," said Nevada coach Jane Albright. "She doesn't care if she scores. She just wants her teammates to be better. She's as good a point guard as anybody you will see anywhere. I don't know how Beth (Aztecs coach Burns) gets her to buy into that system, but obviously it works. She just scores as an afterthought."
Not entirely. Though possessing the ability to deliver passes with both deft and vicious velocity, Hopkins averaged 13.7 points during the regular season. Neither is she afraid to go to the glass. Of the eight triple-doubles recorded in MW history, Hopkins has been responsible for four, all of them coming this season.
"The great ones are great when the level of competition is the highest," Burns said of Hopkins. "If it came down to her last dollar, and it was a competition situation between her and her mother, she would say, 'Sorry, Mom,' and take the dollar.
"She has a special gift. Everybody has different things they bring to the table. She has a special gift, a vision that you can't teach...I mean, she has four triple-doubles. I've been doing this a long time and I've never known that to happen. Every time she gets one, I'm like, 'Really?' Her consistency is probably her most remarkable trait, only behind her competitiveness."
Hopkins, who also added six rebounds, four points and four steals against Nevada, was finding open shooters from seemingly everywhere on the floor as the Aztecs broke from the gate with in grand fashion, racing to a 19-0 lead before the Wolf Pack got on the board with a free throw by Julia Shelbourn with 9:42 gone in the opening half.
"I pride myself on being a pass-first point-guard, but I really pride myself on doing whatever it takes to win," Hopkins said. "I felt like there were really easy opportunities for my teammates, so I'm not going to force a shot when we could easily have a layup from (Erimma) Amarikwa or Khristina Hunter.
"I take whatever the defense gives me. This time it was assists. (On Friday) it could be points. The day after it could be rebounds. That's kind of how I play my game. I don't want to be one-dimensional."
SDSU, which limited Nevada to eight points over the course of the final 10:04, turned 23 Wolf Pack turnovers into 29 points.
Amarikwa,a sophomore forward, and Aztecs senior guard Courtney Clements shared game-high honors with 15 points apiece.
"We've had some competitive games against other teams that we could face in this tournament, but the biggest (advantage) for us is at point guard," Burns said. "With a great point guard, you eliminate mistakes that can be problematic for other teams. You're so comfortable with what Chelsea's capable of doing in any given situation."