The Scotty Hopson that Tennessee fans expected last summer has finally arrived.
"Last year I was new to this, and I was kind of timid,'' said Hopson, a rising sophomore who scored 29 of his 44 points in the second half of the News Sentinel's 106-101 win over ChoiceSpine in Wednesday night's Pilot Rocky Top League. "But I've gotten comfortable, and I'm trying to take my game to a new level.''
Hopson's dynamic first step is more decisive than ever.
And that jump shot of Hopson's that UT coach Bruce Pearl once said was so ridiculously high that it "dusted the roof?''
The arc has been reduced while the success rate has increased.
"You talk about improved? It's night and day with Scotty,'' said Rick Campbell, coach of ChoiceSpine and a former Lincoln Memorial University and AAU coach.
"He's got confidence with his 3-point shot, his defense is better and he's stronger around the bucket.''
Campbell, who has the most detailed gameplans of all the Rocky Top League coaches, had a plan for Hopson, too.
"We were using three guys on him, starting with Cam (Tatum),'' Campbell said. "Then we had Jordan Dixon, who is ultra-quick and a pest for a big guy, and Mike Smith (6-foot-5, ETSU) helped on him.''
Former UT player Dane Bradshaw concurred with Campbell on Hopson's overall improvement.
"One of the things he struggled with was being able to put the ball on the floor and not get knocked out of position,'' Bradshaw said. "But he's stronger with the dribble and stronger on the drive.
"The thing about Scotty, he's such a humble guy and he's so generous; he doesn't have that superstar demeanor.''
But Hopson is beginning to show the superstar game that led Websites to project him as a first-round pick in this year's NBA Draft at this time last year.
"Nah, I'm not even thinking about that,'' Hopson said, asked if this could be his last season with the Vols. "I just want to set a tone in this league and carry it into the season.
"My team reached the Pilot championship last year and we didn't win it, so I want to win it this year.''
Hopson, who was a McDonald's All-American and Mr, Kentucky Basketball out of Hopkinsville, is averaging 46.5 points through two Rocky Top League games this season, putting him on pace to break the league's single-season scoring record.