The Ohio State University men's basketball program has retired four numbers in it's 113 year history. Dennis Hopson's #32 is not one of them. One prerequisite, aside from John Havlicek, to having this honor bestowed upon you at Ohio State is to have won the National Player of the Year Award in college basketball, of which three former Buckeyes have been selected for.
In 1961 and 1962 Jerry Lucas was chosen as the NCAA Division 1 Player of the Year, the United Press International Player of the Year, and the Associated Press Player of the Year. His #11 was retired on February 23rd, 2000. In 1964 Gary Bradds was chosen as the NCAA Division 1 Player of the Year, the United Press International Player of the Year, and the Associated Press Player of the Year. His #35 was retired on January 27th, 2001. In 1992 Jim Jackson was chosen as the United Press International Player of the Year. His #22 was retired on February 10th, 2001.
In an honorary ceremony at halftime of a game against Wisconsin in 2005, John Havlicek had his #5 retired without having won NPOY.
So what has kept Dennis Hopson, an All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year, from hoisting his jersey into the rafters at Value City Arena, even though he is the University's all-time leading scorer and record holder for most points scored in a season?
David Robinson | Navy Midshipmen | 1987 National Player of the Year
This is the second of a five-part series documenting the Ohio State career of Mr. Dennis Hopson - and why we should never again see a #32 in Scarlet and Gray.
"The Admiral" David Robinson was the national story of 1987. He was enrolled at one of our prestigious military academies - Navy - and was a unique seven-footer, for the time, with his combination of power, grace, and athleticism. He was a consensus All-American following his junior year of 1986 and followed that up with a senior season performance that earned him a clean sweep of all major national college basketball awards: Consensus All-American; AP Player of the Year; NABC Player of the Year; Naismith Award; Rupp Trophy; Sporting News Player of the Year; UPI Player of the Year; USBWA Player of the Year; Wooden Award.
In 1986-87 Robinson averaged 28.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in the Colonial Athletic Association against teams like American, William & Mary and North Carolina-Wilmington. He graced the cover of Sports Illustrated two months into his senior season, sparking a following that gained him national attention that he would sustain until being knocked out of the NCAA's first round by the Big Ten's fifth best team - Michigan (20-12).
Meanwhile Dennis Hopson was lighting up the old St. John Arena night after night, averaging 29.1 points-per-game - ranking him second in the nation and first among all Big Ten players - while also leading Ohio State in ten statistical categories. He broke the Ohio State record for most points in a season (958) while becoming the University's all-time leading scorer with 2,096 points. Twenty-five years later both records still stand. And who watched his beyond-spectacular 1986-87 senior season? Just us.
Robinson's centerpiece victory of the 1986-87 season was a 91-90 upset of Michigan State in East Lansing just seven days into the season. Dennis Hopson's? A victory over the undefeated and number-one ranked Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a game that saw Hop score 36 en route to an 80-76 upset win that turned the national rankings upside down. And who watched that one? 15,000 Iowans in attendance and as many of us who got local CBS in Ohio. The next afternoon Robinson scored 45 in a losing effort against the eleventh-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in front of 23,275 at Rupp Arena, and a national TV audience, as a prelude to that night's main event - the Denver Broncos v the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI.
While Robinson and his military story were garnering national attention through multiple televised media outlets, magazines features and newspapers, Dennis Hopson played on national television only once during his senior campaign. This in no way is to say The Admiral didn't deserve the accolades and attention he received. He certainly did. But he had a leg up on our Buckeye Legend from the moment he laced up his sneakers as a senior to play North Carolina State on November 22nd, 1986. He entered his senior season as a two-time All-American after statistically dominating the CAA his sophomore and junior seasons. Everyone knew David Robinson. For Hop it was an uphill battle to gain recognition, even after averaging 20.5 points as a junior playing along side eventual 9th overall NBA draft pick Brad Sellers as a junior.
Hopson would finish the final 1987 National Player of the Year voting third behind Robinson and Steve Alford, who played point guard for the eventual nation champion Indiana Hoosiers.
One month after graduating from the Naval Academy Robinson was drafted first overall by the San Antonio Spurs, two spots ahead of the ultra-talented Hopson in a, at the time, Center-driven league. It wasn't until four years later that the Bulls' Michael Jordan ushered in the guard-driven era of the NBA that we know now with his first NBA Championship in 1991. Know who else earned a ring on that '91 Bulls squad? Yep, Dennis Hopson.
Listen, there are rules in place for every aspect of our lives. I understand that, as do most Ohio State fans who are behind this cause. With that being said, many of us who watched #32 dominate the Big Ten in the mid-80's, the prominent conference of that era, as a three-year starter, two-year Captain, and career record holder twice over, disagree with the fact that one of the historical crown jewels of our program hasn't been honored with a jersey retiring ceremony at Value City Arena.
But Dennis Hopson understands.
I've been blessed over the last few months, especially as a lifelong Ohio State fan and one who grew up as a youngster watching Hop in Scarlet & Gray, to have the opportunity to get to know Dennis a little. I can tell you that you will not find a more humble athlete in any arena. For all he has accomplished in his basketball life - starring at E.L. Bowsher High School in Toledo, repeating that stardom at The Ohio State University, earning his college degree, being drafted 3rd overall into The League, earning a World Championship, and now coaching at Ohio's Bowling Green State University - he's as genuine and humble of a "star" as you'll ever encounter. The man speaks from his heart, respects all who he associates with, and will lend a hand to a perfect stranger. He represents THE Ohio State University exactly the way it should be represented.
I recently asked Coach Hopson his thoughts on not having a jersey hanging in the rafters. His response was understanding, but direct, and allowed me to quickly see into the heart of a Buckeye Legend:
"OSU has a Rule about retiring jerseys and that rule is being National Player of the Year. I wish they had a North Carolina, Kentucky, or Duke tradition."
Had Hop matched his career performance wearing the uniform of any of those three famed college basketball programs, rather than Ohio State's, he would already have his number retired. He is one of a small handful of legends to come through The Ohio State University men's basketball program, but as it stands today our beloved institution has no plans of retiring his #32. It doesn't make sense.
Something needs to give.
If you wish to sign a petition on behalf of retiring Dennis Hopson's #32, please do so HERE
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