KNOXVILLE — Five hundred miles separate the college basketball careers of Scotty Hopson and Chandler Parsons.
But that distance hasn't kept the Tennessee junior and the Florida senior from a handful of close, competitive encounters the past couple of seasons, and they'll get another shot at each other when Hopson and the Volunteers host the Gators tonight.
"I haven't really spoken to him much," Hopson said after practice Monday. "He's in Florida, I'm in Tennessee [and] we understand we both [have] got our goals and our missions.
"When we step between these lines, it's all business."
Hopson's Vols got the better of Parsons' Gators both times two seasons ago, but the quiet budding rivalry between the two didn't really kick into gear until late last January.
Parsons drained a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to put Florida up 60-59 in Knoxville, putting the Vols in danger of losing a third consecutive game.
After a timeout, Hopson caught a pass coming off a screen on the right wing, took two dribbles to his right, crossed back over to his left and elevated with Parsons smothering him. Hopson's jumper went in, leaving Parsons with both hands extended toward the sky.
"He said the shot I made on him was lucky," Hopson said.
The two had plenty of time to discuss that shot — and Florida's 75-62 dismantling of UT in Gainesville later last season — when they played together last summer at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio.
Parsons and Hopson were invited to the event, where they played with and against the nation's top high-school prospects and NBA stars James and Chris Paul.
"I had a good time with Chandler at the LeBron event," Hopson said. "He definitely played well, and I played well, so I was glad to be there. Obviously I'm going to say I got the better of him. We both did what we had to do out there.
"That was a great experience, just being able to play with the top prospects in the country and just knowing where you stand out there, getting evaluated."
Inconsistency has plagued Hopson's UT career, causing many — including Vols coach Bruce Pearl — to wonder aloud why Hopson hasn't fully lived up to the billing he brought with him from high school as a McDonald's All-American.
He was UT's second-leading scorer a season ago and leads the Vols in scoring this year, but Pearl still is expecting more from his skilled shooting guard.
"He's a very, very special player," Pearl said Monday. "There's some things he has got to change and some things he has got to do now and beat down the stereotypes that he's created himself in a negative way. I thought he practiced with great intensity today and focused on the things that sometimes he loses track of, things that are important."
"Coach challenged me," Hopson said. "He called me out and said I need to start stepping up more, and I'm glad he did that. For him to step up and call me out in front of the rest of the team, it got me motivated, and I took it personally. I want to step up and start to play better."
Parsons has had his own slow start this season on a talented, veteran Florida team. The former five-star recruit has scored in single digits in eight of the Gators' 15 games this season, but that doesn't mean he's been invisible.
Parsons leads Florida in rebounding (6.7), assists (3.6) and minutes (31.8). He's also picked up his scoring: He's had 35 points on 12-of-22 shooting and made six of his last seven 3-pointers in Florida's last two games.
"Chandler Parsons has not only been at Florida forever, I've been recruiting him forever," Pearl said. "Great kid, great family. I still say that if we didn't offer him [a scholarship], Florida wouldn't have. I'm just so happy for Chandler and his family. He's playing for one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game, and he's had a great experience at Florida.
"I just hope we can keep beating him."
With two final meetings with Parsons left, so, too, does Hopson.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...