After DeAndre Hopkins made a game-winning Hail Mary grab for the Cardinals in Week 10, some parts of Twitter were quick to compare such a leaping, dominance-asserting catch as the equivalent of a poster dunk in basketball.
That’s a solid comparison regardless of the player catching the ball, but it makes even more sense with Hopkins. He was a four-year varsity basketball player in high school in South Carolina, and he even made a brief cameo on Clemson’s Division I basketball team. Football has likely turned out to be the right choice for the four-time Pro Bowler, but Hopkins could hoop, too.
Here’s a look back at what Hopkins was like as a player in high school and college on the hardwood.
DeAndre Hopkins high school basketball stats, highlights
Hopkins attended Daniel High School in Central, South Carolina. According to Maxpreps, Hopkins played four years of high school varsity basketball.
Those Maxpreps stats list Hopkins’ best season as his sophomore year, with averages of 20.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game. He also averaged 3.0 steals per game across his high school career.
Eventual Clemson and NFL defensive end Shaq Lawson also went to Daniel High School and played basketball, too. He appears to have overlapped with Hopkins for three seasons. Imagine driving down the lane with two strong, future Division I football players waiting for you.
Hopkins makes an appearance toward the back end of this highlight video wearing No. 23 and skying for a dunk.
DeAndre Hopkins’ brief college basketball career at Clemson
After Hopkins’ freshman football season, he briefly joined the Clemson basketball team. He’d just caught 52 passes for the Tigers, but the local kid wanted to continue his hoops career, too. He’d gotten interest in high school from Florida and South Carolina, so the idea wasn’t too far-fetched.
The stats in games for Hopkins were underwhelming. In seven contests, he played 10 minutes, missed both his shot attempts, had a rebound, a steal, a block and an assist. But The Athletic wrote about the “legend of Nuk” in his brief time with the basketball program, and those stories are more interesting.
The Athletic quoted a then-Clemson team manager as saying that Hopkins was the team’s best passer from day one. In his very first day of practice, Hopkins threw a no-look alley-oop pass from beyond the 3-point arc, per The Athletic, and followed it up with a three-quarter court bounce pass for another dunk.
Because of football, Hopkins didn’t have tons of time to work on his shooting or dribbling, skills that would’ve been crucial in getting him more playing time. But for brief moments, Hopkins wowed his teammates in much the same way as he wows the football world every Sunday.
“It makes me feel like I wasn’t a very good player,” Tanner Smith, a three-year starter at Clemson, told The Athletic. “He’d do stuff athletically that I’d spent my entire life trying to do on the basketball court, and he did it second nature.”
DeAndre Hopkins keeps basketball alive on the football field
In addition to Hopkins’ game-winning Hail Mary catch, he’s had other plays that remind folks of basketball on the football field.
There’s the obvious, like a windmill dunk over the goalposts after at touchdown.
And there’s the slightly less obvious, like this catch which had Twitter comparing it to a slam dunk.
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