From Toledo to Europe and back again: Bowsher grad, BGSU staffer among OSU’s greatest hoopstersWritten by Toledo Free Press Staff Writers | | email@example.com
By Yaneek Smith, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
When asked who Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer was, most people would probably throw out names like Michael Redd, Evan Turner or Toledo native Jimmy Jackson.
But while the man who holds that distinction is a Toledo native, it is not Jackson but rather Dennis Hopson, a 1983 Bowsher High School graduate. After playing professional basketball all over the world, Hopson returned home to Northwest Ohio, where he is in his fourth year as an assistant at Bowling Green State University.
Before entering the coaching ranks, Hopson, 47, had a stellar basketball career that started at Bowsher, went to Columbus and culminated with a 14-year run in the professional ranks, including five seasons in the NBA.
Hopson’s four years as a Buckeye were highlighted by a senior season in which he averaged 29.0 points and 8.2 rebounds on 51.8 percent shooting. For his efforts, he was named the 1987 Big Ten Player of the Year, the first Buckeye to win the award.
Hopson spent five seasons in the NBA, playing for New Jersey, Chicago and Sacramento before heading to Europe. In his best season, 1989-90, he averaged 15.8 points on 43.4 percent shooting from the floor and 79.2 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
Perhaps the highlight of his career was winning an NBA Championship with Michael Jordan and the Bulls in 1991.
“It was great (winning the title),” Hopson said. “A lot of guys in the NBA have different agendas, individual agendas, but deep down, at the end of the day, everybody wants to win a championship. There have been a lot of superstars that have gone through the NBA and never won (a title). It was an honor.”
After the NBA, Hopson moved on to play ball in Spain and also competed in France before finishing up his career in Israel, retiring in 2000.
Of his time playing overseas, Hopson said he most enjoyed his years in Israel.
“Tel-Aviv was more Americanized in Israel than it was in Spain and France,” he said. “Everybody there speaks English. You’ve got all the restaurants and everything. It’s incredible. The weather was great (and) you’ve got beaches. For an American, to go over there, it’s perfect. I had a great time. A lot of the teams were local and the players would hang out together and have a good time. It was perfect.”
Today, Hopson stays connected with the game by working as an assistant at BGSU. More than anything, he said he’s trying to use his life experiences to pass along some knowledge and wisdom to his players, hoping to guide them in the right direction.
“You’re dealing with kids at this job,” Hopson said. “Thank God, we have high-character kids at BG. Having high-character kids is important. You’ve got to make sure the kids are going to class, study tables. Some of them are away from home and they’re going to have issues and you’ve got to deal with that. You’ve got to know how to coach each kid differently.”
Before coming to Bowling Green, Hopson coached the Toledo Royal Knights of the American Basketball Association before the team folded in 2006 and then got a job working with legendary coach Rollie Massimino at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla. It was that job that lead him to BGSU, where he accepted the job as assistant coach in 2009. Hopson is divorced and has a son, Judere, 25, who lives in Columbus and works for Chase Bank.
Under the leadership of sixth-year head coach Louis Orr, the Falcons finished 13-19 overall and 7-9 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) before falling to Miami (Ohio), 63-52, in the MAC Tournament.
“We like to say it’s a grind,” Hopson said of the coaching profession. “It’s not an easy business. You can’t just like this business, you have to love it because it can wear on you. You’re going to have peaks and valleys. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to win games, lose games, graduate players, have incoming players. It’s a preparation, it’s a mindset that you’ve got to have as a coach.”