University of Washington

Hopkins says Isaiah Thomas’ passion for UW is “pretty special”

Before Mike Hopkins talked about his current players, he spent some time discussing a certain former Washington star point guard from Tacoma.

UW announced Thursday it was retiring Isaiah Thomas’ No. 2 jersey during the Feb. 15 game against Utah at Alaska Airlines Arena. Thomas led the Huskies to three consecutive Pac-12 Championships. He was drafted with the final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft and has become a two-time all-star.

Hopkins met with reporters Friday and spoke about Thomas at great length.

“He’s been so supportive of what we’re doing here,” Hopkins said. “We had the opportunity during one of early practices where he came in and spoke to the team.

“His passion for the university and what it’s done for him is pretty special.”

Thomas, who was born and raised in Tacoma, finished his career as the program’s eighth all-time leading scorer. He totaled 1,721 career points for an average of 16.4 points per game.

He initially attended Curtis High until his junior year before transferring to South Kent School in Connecticut in 2006.

When Thomas was at South Kent, he was teammates with Dion Waiters. Waiters, a shooting guard with the Miami Heat, played two seasons at Syracuse where Hopkins was a longtime assistant.

Hopkins said when he got a chance to know Thomas while he was recruiting Waiters.

“At the time when he was at South Kent, he was already committed to the University of Washington,” Hopkins recalled. “It’s one of those things when you spend time at the schools and get to know kids through recruiting other kids, I think that’s one of the things I love about recruiting.

“Even the kids that you don’t get it, it’s the fun of building those relationships, getting to know those guys and then watching their careers as they developed.”

Soon the discussion shifted to what UW gleaned from its most recent game — a 97-70 loss to Gonzaga — last Sunday.

Hopkins said UW could have been better about having a sense of urgency defending the Gonzaga late in the shot clock. The Bulldogs shot 50.8 percent from the field and scored 26 second-chance points.

The Huskies did shoot a respectable 47 percent. But only shot 58 percent from the free-throw line and lost the rebounding battle 40 to 27.

“For the most part, it’s a great lesson,” Hopkins said. “Until you know, until you experience something like that, it’s the only way you know how to come back and have a better game if you played them the next day.”

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark