Hopkins boys basketball team kick off the 2022-2023 season

Oliver Litvack, Sports Editor

Dec 2 marked the beginning of the Hopkins boys basketball season. The team, led by point guard Jayden Moore, freshman, and center Vincent Hillesheim, senior, traveled to Farmington. Guard Anthony Smith III, sophomore, put up 33 points en route to a 86-80 Royals victory.

“Starting our season off on a high note and getting our first win felt really good which is important for our confidence,” said Jacob Rothman, senior.

Last year, the boys took on Farmington at home in another tight matchup, coming out with a 64-60 victory. Although the result of the game did not change, the leaders of the team were completely different. This is mainly due to the graduation of Tyrell Sappington and the transfer of impact players like Max Wilson, C.J. O’hara, and Gavin Pierce. The biggest loss for the Royals was the graduation of Elvis Nnaji, cousin of HHS alum and current Denver Nuggets center Zeke Nnaji. Nnaji is now playing at George Mason University.

Because of the many losses the basketball team experienced this offseason, new players have had to step up. Moore, the second ranked player in the class of 2026, is the only starter returning to the Royals. Other players who had limited roles on varsity last year, like Smith, Hillesheim, and Rothman, have had to mentor the players with less varsity experience.

“I feel really good stepping into a leadership role because most people this year didn’t play varsity previously,” Smith said. “Helping them be confident when they get in and overall helping the people who don’t get to play as much is a good feeling.”

After cruising to a first game victory in a game where 166 points were scored between both teams, the only question was the Royals’ defense. They quickly put a stop to all criticism on how they defend, beating Minneapolis South 87-52 in their second game of the season.

While Minneapolis South is not a traditional rival of Hopkins basketball, there was still a giant circle around this game. This was due to last year’s matchup in the section 6AAAA boys basketball tournament, where the third seeded Minneapolis South beat the second seeded Royals 68-53 at Hopkins. 

“A lot of people doubted us this year after last year’s game against them,” Smith said. “It feels good because we lost to them by 15 last year and beat them by 35 this year, so we definitely got our revenge.”

The Royals entered the season ranked outside of the top 10 in class AAAA, but after two impressive games to kick off the season, they are opening many eyes. One of their biggest goals this year is to perform better against rivals Wayzata and Minnetonka, who both swept the Royals last year.

“We’ll treat the Wayzata and Minnetonka games just like every other game this year,” Rothman said. “We’re going to work harder than everyone else, so we’ll be ready to compete no matter who we are playing.”

The Royals begin conference play on Friday, Jan 13 with an away game against Eden Prairie. Their first home game is on Friday, Jan 27 against STMA.