BLOOMSBURG — Mia Hopkins was the first Pittston Area basketball player to receive a scholarship to play on an NCAA Division 1 team. Monmouth University came calling, and Hopkins spent two years playing for the Hawks.
However, after a coaching change at Monmouth and a drop in playing time her sophomore season, Hopkins made her way back to the area and joined the Bloomsburg University women’s basketball team prior to the start of the fall semester. Since then, her time at Monmouth has become an afterthought.
Through Bloomsburg’s first eight games, Hopkins ranks nationally in several statistical categories. She’s currently tied for the lead in Division 2 women’s basketball with seven double-doubles. She currently sits fourth in the nation in rebounds per game and sixth in defensive rebounds.
With just a 5-9 frame, Hopkins has the knack to get in the lane and fight for every rebound, Bloomsburg coach Bill Cleary said. She leads the team in rebounding and just about every other statistical category, including playing more than 35 minutes per game.
“Mia has been unbelievable since she got here,” Cleary said. “She’s a unique player. I’ve never coached a player of her caliber. She just wants to win. She’s just going to do whatever it takes to help her team win.”
Hopkins believes it’s all about heart when going up against tall, physical players.
“You have to just want it,” Hopkins said. “Honestly, it’s determination. It has nothing to do with your height. It has to do with you wanting the ball.”
Hopkins spent two seasons at Monmouth prior to transferring to Bloomsburg. In her freshman season, Hopkins saw action in 33 games off the bench and averaged 4.9 points per game. In her sophomore season, she appeared in 29 games and had 4 points per game.
After playing eight games for the Huskies, it was evident Hopkins’ high school prowess wasn’t lost. The junior guard is now averaging 18.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest. She’s shooting over 40 percent from the field and is also averaging almost five assists a game.
The transfer process was a difficult one, Hopkins said. Through all the paperwork and dealing with leaving her friends at the school in New Jersey, she felt like it was a big leap to come closer to home.
“I knew it was the best decision for me at the time,” she said. “Right now, I couldn’t be happier. I have no intentions of looking back. I have a really great group of friends here.”
In Hopkins’ very first game for the Huskies, coach Cleary knew he had something special.
Right out of the gate, Hopkins showed the entire Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference what she is made of. Against New Haven on Nov. 11, she poured in a game-high 24 points and added 14 rebounds with six assists.
Hopkins’ seven-straight double-doubles streak ended this past weekend against Gannon University when she finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds in the Huskies’ second loss of the season.
“She has the ability to get to the basket,” Cleary said. “She has a very quick first step and has that scorer’s mentality in an unselfish way. Not only does she get to the basket but she creates for her teammates.”
Bloomsburg dropped to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the PSAC with the loss to Gannon, its only other loss this season came to California University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to committing to Monmouth, Hopkins was one of the best basketball players to ever come out of Pittston Area. Graduating in 2013, she scored over 1,500 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds in her varsity career. She was a Pennsylvania Sportswriters All-State honoree in her junior and senior seasons.
As a junior for the Patriots, Hopkins averaged 20.3 points and 14 rebounds per game.
Bloomsburg’s Nelson Field House is just a one-hour drive from Hopkins’ hometown of Pittston. In the past two seasons, while she played for Monmouth, her family made it to some games. Now, the former Pittston Area star sees friends from high school, along with relatives who never got a chance to see her play in New Jersey.
“It’s nice to have that welcoming feeling,” Hopkins said. “I know this isn’t my hometown but it’s really nice to be able to have my entire family come to Bloomsburg to support me.”
Hopkins grew up in a basketball family. Every chance she gets, she watches basketball or is thinking about basketball. Her grandfather, John Hopkins, coached at GAR for 23 seasons. With him was Mia, who caught most of the GAR games from the stands.
John played his basketball at Pittston Township High School and took over as coach at GAR in 1973. Mike Hopkins, John’s brother and Mia’s great uncle, coached at Pittston Area and Seton Catholic in the early 1980s. Angie, John’s wife, was also a standout basketball player in the 1950s.
Hopkins and her mother, Sharon, are neighbors to Angie and John. Any time she gets the chance, Hopkins tries to share basketball thoughts with them.
“Basketball is so important to my family,” Hopkins said. “The first thing I do when I come home is visit them. We talk about it at dinner. Basketball is everything.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick