Now sporting a custom-fit mask to protect a broken nose, Caitlin Hopkins is once again able to see while she plays – and those watching her are able to catch glimpses of her potential on the basketball court.
After being unable to see through a mask provided to her by an athletic trainer for two games, Hopkins, a Queens College freshman center from Sachem East High School in Long Island, switched to a custom-fit one. The mask-switch has resulted in immediate improvement from Hopkins. After all, playing basketball with distorted vision cannot be good for a player’s statistics.
“I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t see,” said Hopkins who will continue to wear the mask for the remainder of the season. “I switched and the first game I could finally see was against St. Thomas Aquinas.”
That game on December 30 marked the first of three consecutive games that saw Hopkins record at least eight rebounds. The Holtsville, Suffolk County native was awarded East Coast Conference (ECC) Rookie of the Week for her efforts.
“She is capable of a lot more than what she did in high school. She has a great work ethic and she is a sponge,” said Tom Flahive, head coach of the Queens College women’s basketball team. “I set realistic goals for my players and she believes in me.”
Flahive has said that his goal for Hopkins is a double-double every night, 10 points and 10 rebounds. She is currently averaging 5.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game with a dozen games left to be played.
“She is a key component and 10 rebounds is what we need from her,” Flahive said.
Hopkins failed to total more than six rebounds in any game from November 16 through December 22, mostly because of her injury but also due to her adjusting to the college life on and off the court.
Hopkins suffered the broken nose in her third career collegiate game November 16, at Nyack College, a game her Queens College Lady Knights teammates eventually won, 79-42, without her being able to play for the majority of the game.
The injury has been another obstacle to overcome for the developing student athlete. Compared to other centers in her conference, Hopkins is under-sized, so to compensate she has to develop foot-speed to counter the opposition’s strengths, according to Flahive.
“I was the tallest one in high school,” the 6-foot-1 center said. “Now I have got to work for every single rebound.”
The transition from high school to college presented an immediate challenge for Hopkins as well. She knew Queens College was the right school for her, both in terms of academics and athletics and she watched the team play last season at the school – which is located on Kissena Boulevard, close to her home. After the fall semester she said she was confident she made the right choice, but the experience has not been what she had expected. College can be very tough on freshmen, as Hopkins found out – although she earned respectable grades, she aims to do better in the spring semester.
“It’s not what I expected. I thought freshman year would be a lot easier,” said Hopkins, who is undecided on her major but believes it will be psychology.
Hopkins found out that she also must work very hard to compete against the level of play on the court in Division II college basketball. She is meeting that challenge head on with her recent strong play – something that Hopkins believes is no fluke because she always felt a potential from within to elevate her game.
“I definitely have to get stronger, try not to make stupid choices and take better shots,” she said, referring to pregame conditioning and in-game decisions.
With a 5-11 overall record and a 4-5 record in ECC play, Queens College has a team that relies heavily on contributions from freshman and sophomore players such as Hopkins. These young players are the building blocks for the team’s future and hopeful success – a duty that will not send Hopkins hiding behind any mask.
“There is pressure, but I kind of like it because it pushes you to work that much harder,” she said.