Hopson hits 49 in opener

Tennessee's Scotty Hopson could score anytime he wanted to in Monday night's Rocky Top League basketball opener ... and he apparently wanted to fairly often.

Hopson hung up 49 points – many on dazzling dunks at the end of serpentine drives – in leading The News-Sentinel to a 130-123 defeat of Ray's ESG at Knoxville's Bearden High Gym.

Basically, Scotty Hopson was unstoppable, even when guarded by former Vol point guard C.J. Watson, now playing for the NBA's Golden Gate Warriors. At 6-2, Watson simply couldn't match up with the 6-7 Hopson. Of course, neither could anyone else who tried to guard him.

Hopson, who averaged 28.9 points per game in the Rocky Top League last summer, was all smiles after nearly posting half-a-hundred points in his 2009 debut.

"This is probably the most fun league I ever played in," he said. "I'm very excited to play out here. I'm just coming out here and having a good time."

Although Hopson has a good 3-point stroke, his greatest attributes are a quick first step and dynamic leaping ability that make him a difficult man to contain on drives to the basket. Seemingly able to turn on the switch and take over the game at will, he scored 15 of his team's final 21 points to seal the victory.

"I'm trying to keep it where that switch is ALWAYS on," he said. "No plays off ... always a high-energy guy."

As if to prove he is no ball hog, Hopson spent considerable portions of Monday night's game setting up teammates. It was almost as if he sometimes got bored with scoring himself. This enabled fellow Vols Brian Williams (23 points) and Skylar McBee (20) to have big nights, as well.

"I'm a scorer and I'm going to come out here and get buckets," Hopson said, "but I also want to get my teammates involved. Me and Skylar have great chemistry, and I play good with Brian. We're going to need that next year."

Tremendous hoopla and rampant expectations awaited Hopson when he arrived on campus last summer. He wound up starting 30 games as a freshman – averaging 9.2 points per game with a 42.8 field-goal percentage and a 35.7 3-point percentage – but he had more turnovers (50) than assists (49) and never quite lived up to the hype.

With a year's college experience behind him, however, he believes he'll be a much more polished player in 2009-10 than he was in 2008-09.

"I would say my overall court awareness and my defense are a lot better," he said. "I just keep competing on defense and I'm able to see plays before they happen all the time now.

"The big key was getting that one year of experience under my belt; it really helped me out. I'm less timid coming out to play. I feel more confident."

With 49 points in his 2009 debut, the newfound confidence certainly showed.

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