Hopson's hot in debut

Asking mild-mannered Scotty Hopson to be outspoken is like asking a leopard to change its spots ... ain't gonna happen. Still, the Vols' junior guard can be assertive in other ways, as he showed Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Hopson was aggressive - physically, if not verbally - in Tennessee's 91-42 exhibition blowout of Div. II Brevard College. He attempted a team-high 9 shots, making 6. He drained 3 of 4 tries from behind the 3-point line. He got to the foul line, making both shots. In addition to a game-high 17 points, he finished with 3 rebounds, 2 steals and an assist. He accomplished all of this in roughly one half of action (21 minutes).

All of the above had to please Vol head man Bruce Pearl, who has been preaching at Hopson to be more assertive for two-plus years.

"Coach has been wanting me to set the tone for this team in every way I can," Hopson conceded. "Defensively and offensively, he's asking me to do more. I want to go out there and do that for him."

Quite by nature, the 6-7 junior is never going to be a vocal leader. But he can lead in terms of playing aggressively on both ends of the floor. He proved that as a senior at University Heights High in Hopkinsville, Ky., averaging 24.3 points, 11.3 points, 3 blocks and 3 assists per game.

"It's new," he said of his current role, "but I've done it before. I'm stepping into this role, and it's not hard. I've had great leaders that set the tone and I've been able to follow them. Just watching them and leading by example, I'm having a good time with it."

Hopson learned from three outstanding leaders last season - seniors Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze. They led Tennessee all the way to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.

"I had J.P. and Wayne and the rest of those guys who were great leaders for me to look up to," Hopson conceded. "Watching how they did it and then stepping into the game the way I want to do it is helping me a lot."

Asked to assess his performance as a leader Wednesday night, Hopson answered without hesitation:

"I feel like I did well. I got a lot of positive things done. I got some steals, got some deflections. I definitely need to do more, so I'm looking forward to getting better every day."

In addition to being Tennessee's only returning starter from last season, Hopson was one of very few returning players on the floor Wednesday night. Junior Cameron Tatum and sophomore Kenny Hall were sidelined by injuries, while seniors Brian Williams and Josh Bone had their playing time limited by recent physical problems.

"I was expecting Brian and a couple more (veteran) guys to be out there with me but they're down right now," Hopson said. "We have to pick them up and set the tone for the younger guys. I'm just trying to be the aggressor and set the tone for this basketball team."

So far, so good.

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