By Anne Elgin
For The Register-Herald
Students, coaches and staff spoke Thursday morning about the loss of a former Bluefield High School basketball player and friend, who was discovered dead in her dorm room at the University of Charleston-Beckley campus.
Shelia Hopkins, nickname CoKo, a freshman at UC-Beckley, was on a basketball scholarship to fulfill her long-time goal of playing college ball, Bluefield High School Athletic Director Kim Miller said.
“When she entered 9th grade her main goal was to go to college and play basketball. She was focused, driven, strong and an independent young lady. She always had a smile on her face,” Miller said.
Hopkins was voted funniest and most unforgettable by her senior class in 2013 for senior class superlatives, Miller said.
“That tells you right there how she is remembered by everyone,” Miller said.
Girls basketball coach Tony Mallamaci added, “CoKo was a fun-loving, joking person, but when she was on the court it was all business. She was a very competitive player and hated to lose, but also kept the mood light.”
Hopkins was an honor roll student, co-captain of the varsity girls basketball team and was on a basketball scholarship at UC-Beckley.
“This is a very sudden and shocking thing,” Mallamaci said.
Hopkins will be extremely missed by her friends and team, fellow team members told the Daily Telegraph.
“She was great with kids and just lit up a room when she walked in. She was a great basketball player and student. She loved her team and coaches. She could make anyone laugh,” Abby Atwell, a student at Bluefield High School and a former teammate of Hopkins, said.
Another lifelong friend and former teammate, Tyra Jackson, has been playing basketball with Hopkins since she was in 7th grade.
“She loved to play, she was so funny and had an impact on everyone. CoKo never wanted to see anyone upset. I think what she cared about the most was making her mom proud,” Jackson said.
Assistant girls basketball coach Kerry Richmond was particularly close with Hopkins.
“I thought of her like a daughter,” Richmond said.
She had so much going for her and always had a smile on her face, Richmond said.
“We had a game Wednesday night against Richlands and I had told the girls to play for her, play as hard as you can because that’s what she would have wanted,” Richmond said.
Detective Cpl. M.G. Bragg of the Beckley Police Station said, “the investigation still continues. As of right now there is no new information. But nothing at the scene indicates any suspicious activity.”
Hopkins’ body has been sent to the medical examiner and the results of the autopsy should be available next week, Bragg said.
While police continue their investigation, the UC-Beckley is also helping students deal with the shocking and sudden death of Hopkins.
UC Communications Director Scott Castleman said, “we had a meeting with students who might be affected by this and have also had a counselor on campus to talk with students.”
The basketball team is working on a way to honor Hopkins within the next couple days, Castleman said.
“We are shocked and saddened and once we have more information in the next couple days we will be releasing it,” Castleman said.
— Anne Elgin is a reporter at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph