KNOXVILLE — Scotty Hopson thought he was done with his long process of preparing for the NBA draft on Sunday.
With the suspense and nerves building up inside the former Tennessee star as he’s nearing a moment toward which he’s worked most of his life, Hopson has one final workout today just hours before the start of tonight’s NBA draft.
“I might not be able to sleep tonight,” Hopson said Wednesday evening before boarding a flight to Detroit for a workout with the Pistons. “I’m sure I’ll be thinking about the total draft process the entire time. I’m so excited for this moment.
“I’ve worked so hard to become an NBA player, [and] just to even be considered to even get the opportunity to put my name in the draft [and] be considered as a draft pick is just an honor. I’m really blessed right now and very humbled by this experience.”
Hopson isn’t the only Volunteer waiting to hear his name called by NBA commissioner David Stern or deputy commissioner Adam Silver at some point tonight. Tobias Harris, who left UT after his freshman season, is expected to go in the first round.
It’s unfamiliar territory for a UT program that’s recently had just one player (Chicago Bulls’ backup point guard C.J. Watson) in the NBA. No Vols have even been drafted since 2002, when Marcus Haislip (13th overall to Milwaukee) and Vincent Yarbrough (33 rd overall to Denver) were taken.
Hopson’s aware of UT’s light NBA representation, and he’s hoping he can help start changing it.
“The way I look at is I’m a Vol for life, and if our program is putting out NBA players, it might mean well for the guys coming up behind me,” said the, 6-foot-7, 205-pound wing.
“They might look at it like, ‘Scotty made it, so maybe we can go to Tennessee and make it.’ I’m just looking at it like I want people to understand that Tennessee is a great program, and it’s a program that produces great players and great people. Not just great basketball players, it creates well-rounded individuals. I think over the past three years I became that.”
Despite his outstanding athleticism and the ability to create his own shot, Hopson’s ball-handling and inconsistency knocked him down most draft projections. ESPN’s Chad Ford has him going 53rd to Orlando in the 60-pick mock draft released on Tuesday, and DraftExpress predicts Hopson will go a pick later to Cleveland.
“I think I will have a great transition to the NBA because my game maybe even fits more to the NBA because it’s a lot of pick-and-roll offense [and] it’s more of an athletic league,” Hopson said. “It’s still fundamental and things of that nature, but it’s an athletic league. I think I’ll fit right in with a club and be that part of the team that brings that energy and that athleticism. I’m a young guy, so I’ll look to bring energy and be a hard worker.”
The 6-8, 225-pound Harris, who has toned his body since UT’s season ended in hopes of making the transition from college power forward to NBA small forward, is projected to go 22nd to the Nuggets, according to both Ford and DraftExpress.
Both Harris and Hopson have spent the better part of the last month flying across the country, staying in hotels and working out and interviewing with individual NBA teams since last month’s NBA combine. Hopson alone has had workouts with Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Sacramento and Charlotte.
“It’s preparation for the NBA,” Hopson said. “Traveling across the country back and forth [with] not a lot of sleep and the air travel…if you can go to that workout and have that focus and perform well, it shows you what it’s like at the next level. The one thing I’ve learned from it is the small things as far as having attention to detail and being able to pick certain things up very quickly when I go into these workouts because a lot of times they just tell you what set to run and expect you to know how to execute it properly.”
Once Hopson’s done in Detroit, he’ll fly to New Jersey to reunite with his family, watch the draft and learn where the next chapter of his life and basketball career will begin.
“It’s been a great ride for me,” Hopson said. “I enjoyed my last years at Tennessee and all the fans that have been loyal to me. I’ve done my best to stay loyal to them.
“We’ll sit down and just take the chance to relish in the moment and enjoy the fact that we’re all together. It’s my time to be happy and enjoy the experience, whatever the outcome may be. I don’t have any regrets and I’ve put my all into it.”
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 ...