Vintoria Hopps, a senior guard on ’s varsity basketball team, is always finding herself on the court.
Basketball has been a part of her life since she was 6 years old, when she started playing the sport recreationally in leagues around the city.
At first, basketball was just a hobby and something fun to do, she said, but it eventually became a lot more than that to her.
“I started playing, honestly, because it was just something like, I was outside, I didn’t have anything to do, someone threw me the ball, and I was just good at it,” she said. “Now, I can’t go without it.”
After she started playing on the recreation teams, Hopps said people started to take notice of her talent, even at a young age. It started when she would consistently score a lot of points, even on co-ed teams.
“I was in sixth-grade, and I was averaging 17 points a game on these boys and these girls, and that’s why I got introduced to the AAU world because the coaches were actually looking at me," she said.
The AAU, or Amateur Athletic Union, is a highly competitive travel league that helps high school players get attention from college programs. In it, Hopps competes against players all around the country.
“The AAU world really helps you get noticed by college coaches,” she said.
Hopps said she has already received multiple letters of interest from various colleges. Wherever she decides to go, she wants to major in business administration.
According to Hopps, her first stint with the AAU was later than when other girls her age started playing with the travel league, so she has had to prove herself on the court.
“I’ve always felt like an underdog,” she said. “I came in late and I had to prove myself. I prove myself time and again but I know I have the talent.”
When she first started playing with the AAU, Hopps said she did not have much playing time, if any, in the beginning. But she continued to dedicate her time to basketball and eventually became a starter.
With the AAU’s season, Hopps doesn’t get much of a break from playing basketball, because when she isn’t playing for her AAU team, she plays for Brooks-DeBartolo. She also participates in tournaments around the state.
Brooks-DeBartolo coach Dexter Bryant has coached Hopps since her sophomore season and has firsthand knowledge of her dedication to the sport. Hopps also serves as one of the team captains.
“She is a great leader,” Bryant said. “She is also very knowledgeable about the game and can really help the younger players we have.”
Bryant said he thinks Hopps’ leadership skills are what helped her to be named to the Florida All-State girls basketball team last season, scoring 379 points and averaging 14 a3 game.
“It felt amazing to be named an All-State player, but I have to keep working,” Hopps said. “Being named as an All-Star player is good, but it only motivates me to get down to business.”
Hopps said she is looking forward to leading Brooks-DeBartolo this season, and her goal is to make it to the state championships after last year's loss in the region semifinals.