Lights-out Hopson

Tennessee's basketball trainer might want to bring smelling salts to practice today. To shoot the way he has in two preseason exhibition games Vol sophomore Scotty Hopson must be unconscious.

After nailing 8 of 10 shots in Exhibition No. 1 last Friday against North Alabama, he came back to hit 7 of 9 shots in Exhibition No. 2 Wednesday night against Lincoln Memorial University. That's a combined 15 of 19 (78.9 percent) from the field. He wasn't just shooting layups, either. He hit a combined 6 of 8 shots from behind the arc (75 percent).

Clearly, the countless hours Scotty Hopson devoted to reducing the arc of his jump shot during the offseason was time well spent.

"I'm shooting it well right now," the 6-7 guard said. "My confidence is high. My teammates are keeping me positive. We're giving the effort on the defensive end, which is creating opportunities for me to score on the offensive end."

When he wasn't bombing from beyond the 3-point arc, Hopson was driving past LMU defenders and scoring at the rim.

"He got to the basket," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "And when he went he went quick. He makes plays in the air really well."

In addition to flattening his jump shot, Hopson spent the offseason bulking up his slender frame and improving his aggressiveness.

Calling the addition of 15 pounds "a big key to my game," Hopson noted that he "worked really hard at putting on weight and getting stronger in the weight room. It's helped me in taking contact and finishing at the rim."

The added strength would be of no benefit, however, if Hopson played as passively as he did as a Vol freshman in 2008-09. He appears to be much more assertive this year, however.

"I'm starting to demand the ball more," he said. "Slashing is what I do best. I know if I have the ball in my hands I'll make plays for my teammates and we'll put more points on the board."

With a 6-7 frame and superior leaping ability, Hopson is almost unstoppable when he gets around the basket. If he doesn't get the basket, he usually gets fouled. Either way, he's scoring points for the Vols.

"Getting to the free-throw line has really been a big step-up in my game," he said. "It's really helped my scoring. Being stronger and finishing more has really helped my game out."

Driving to the basket makes it a little tougher for Hopson to get back on defense but that's a trade-off his teammates are happy to make.

"Everybody's telling him to keep playing his game; we've got his back on defense," senior post Wayne Chism said. "It don't matter where he is. We keep looking for him, and he's doing a good job."

Although Hopson's red-hot shooting has surprised fans and media attending the two exhibition games, it hasn't surprised his teammates at all.

"Scotty's been doing in games the same way he's been doing in practice," Chism said.

Obviously, Hopson isn't going to continue shooting 75 percent from 3 and nearly 80 percent overall. Still, armed with his new shooting stroke, he appears on the verge of a breakout season in 2009-10.

"I've got to stay dedicated and get as many shots as I can, keep working and keep my confidence up," he said. "It's really working good."

Obviously.


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