Hopson hones his D

He averaged better than 30 points per game in each of his first two seasons of Rocky Top Summer League basketball, so the 37 points he scored Thursday night was no surprise.

But the points Scotty Hopson PREVENTED was.

Showing a newfound knack for defense, the 6-7 University of Tennessee junior blocked shots, deflected passes and made steals all over the court. It wasn't enough to carry his Knoxville News-Sentinel team to victory but it was enough to show that Hopson's athleticism can be just as disruptive on defense as it is dynamic on offense.

"I'm trying to use my length and the quickness of my first step to get in the passing lanes and make plays," he said. "At Tennessee we score off of our defense a lot of times, so I'm trying to relate that to this basketball out here."

You'd think Hopson's focus on defense might adversely affect his offense ... but you'd be wrong. He drained 15 of 28 shots Thursday night - including 5 of 13 from 3-point range - en route to the league's biggest individual output of the evening.

"Everybody knows I'm a scorer," he said. "That's why I'm a 2 guard and that's why I came here - to put buckets up. Now I've got to emphasize a lot more aspects to my game, so I can become an all-around better player."

Hopson spent parts of Thursday night's game going head-to-head with former Vol Tyler Smith, who scored 26 points in Choice Spine's victory. It was an intriguing matchup and one Hopson thoroughly enjoyed.

"It was great, man," he said. "I've been going head-to-head with him since my freshman year here. He introduced me to the SEC well, and that's what I'm trying to do for our young players today."

Smith was among four 2009-10 seniors Tennessee will be missing in 2010-2011. The others were three-year starter Wayne Chism, plus two-year starters J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze. That's a lot of experience and leadership to replace but Hopson thinks he can fill the bill.

"It's definitely on me to become more of a leader," he said. "Coach (Bruce Pearl) is trying to put me in that position and I'm trying to put myself in that position. If I want to take my game to the next level I have to become more of a leader. I think I'm stepping into that role very well."

One of a leader's roles is to be on time. Hopson failed in that regard Thursday night, missing the tipoff of his team's game. He had a legitimate excuse, however.

"I was in school with my tutor," he said. "Education is more important than anything."

Apparently so. Shortly after getting some tutoring, Hopson took the floor Thursday night and schooled his opponents.

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