When Edward Kennedy Ellington was 7 years old, his friends gave him the nickname “Duke” because of the smooth, regal, elegant way with which the budding artist and musician carried himself, even at that tender age.
“Duke” Ellington has been a major music influence for nearly 100 years, and his status and stature have moved millions of people in the U.S. and around the globe. In fact, it moved former Ithaca College baseball star Joe Hopkins to name his first child after the jazz icon.
No, not “Duke” Hopkins.
Lansing three-sport star Ellington Hopkins isn’t known for smooth jazz licks or the big-band sound, but he’s the leader of a pretty good band of athletes on the east shore of Cayuga Lake. Hopkins and Co. are riding a huge wave into the Section 4 Class C boys soccer tournament, having given up just one goal all season en route to a 16-0 record and an Interscholastic Athletic Conference title.
Hopkins scored two first-half goals last Saturday in the Bobcats’ 3-0 defeat of Elmira Notre Dame in the IAC final at Tompkins Cortland Community College. It was Lansing’s second straight IAC title-game win; last year’s also came over Notre Dame, by a 1-0 score.
Not only does Hopkins make sweet music on the soccer pitch, but he’s an all-star on the basketball court and the baseball field, as well. He helped lead the Bobcats to the state Class C title in baseball a few months ago, hitting well over .400 while playing a slick middle infield and closing games on the mound with a nearly unhittable fastball.
Coach Adam Heck’s Bobcat soccer squad — ranked second in the state behind Port Jefferson, the team that ended Lansing’s season last year in the state semifinals — is the top seed in the Class C sectional tournament. After a first-round bye, Lansing will play its tourney opener Friday against fellow IAC school Odessa-Montour. In this installment of “Five Questions,” we ask the Lansing triple threat about expectations for his team, his style of play, winning a state title in baseball, and other “jazz.”
How has your team dealt this fall with the expectations of a high state ranking?
To be honest, I don’t think we think about it as much this year. Definitely last year it was on our mind because it was the first time we were up there in a while, but I think definitely this year we came in with a little more experience, being No. 1 last year, kind of going about it with a business mentality and kind of ignoring it I guess you can say. Knowing that we have to get back to where we were and that it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day unless you win it.
How do defenders react to your physical style of play on the soccer field?
It varies. Some defenders like it, others kind of shy away from it. That’s just kind of how I played coming in. I didn’t have the best foot skills so I kind of tried to use my body to my advantage. It works sometimes, obviously other times it doesn’t. I get called on it a lot. It’s just the way I figured out how to play.
What was it like to win a state baseball title, and how did it affect you?
I think it definitely gives me a lot of experience. I’ve kind of been there, I’ve been in the atmosphere, so I know how to handle tough situations. I feel like it’s definitely worked to my advantage a little bit, being under pressure a lot. Once you get the feeling of winning it the first time you just want that feeling again, because it’s a once in a lifetime thing for most people. To have the chance is just a blessing.
Who is your favorite pro athlete in the three sports you play?
In soccer, it would have to be (Didier) Drogba (ex-Chelsea and Ivory Coast player). He’s bigger, plays more physical, and I kind of tried to do everything he did. In baseball, it’s probably Robinson Cano. He plays my position (second base), hits lefty, and I’ve kind of idolized him and tried to take what he can do. In basketball, definitely Dwyane Wade, for sure.
Which sport do you enjoy playing the most, and which sport do you think you are the best at?
I guess I’d have to say I’m the best at baseball. I’ve had the longest experience with the game and I grew up playing it, my dad played in college, so it kind of ran in the family a little bit. But I think the most fun would have to be basketball. It’s just upbeat, I like the intensity, I just like the way basketball is. I’ve always loved it, since I started playing it.