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Scotty Hopson has been reflecting on his past and future while flying the friendly skies the past month.
“It’s a time I can just kind of reflect,’’ said Hopson, who is in New Jersey anxiously awaiting Thursday’s NBA draft (TV: 7 p.m., ESPN). “The thing I keep coming back to is something (former Tennessee) Coach (Bruce) Pearl would always tell us, that to get the end result, you have to focus on the process.
“It’s been challenging, but I’ve been getting my rest, eating right and I’ve gotten better in each of my workouts with the teams.’’
Former Tennessee Freshman All-American Tobias Harris has been focused on the process for years, due in large part to the fact that his father, Torrel Sr., is a former NBA agent (1983-1996).
“Tobias worked out for 10 lottery teams and two others over the last month,’’ Torrel Harris said. “The two non-lottery teams were Tobias’ hometown favorite, the New York Knicks, and the Denver Nuggets, just because I think he’s a good fit for that team.’’
NBA analysts have agreed Harris will likely get picked in the second half of the first round, while Hopson has been projected to be picked anywhere from late in the first round to mid-second round and beyond.
Former Vol C.J. Watson was the only former UT player in the NBA this past season, and the most recent Tennessee players drafted were Marcus Haislip and Vincent Yarbrough in 2002.
Hopson, who has been living and conditioning in Las Vegas between visits to about a dozen teams, said he hopes he can represent Tennessee in the NBA ranks, but he knows he has more work ahead.
“I feel like I’m at my best when I have something to prove, and that’s the case right now,’’ Hopson said. “I realize it’s going to take my best no matter who the opponent is.
“At the end of the day, basketball is a business, and each and every one of these workouts have been like job interviews.’’
Hopson and Harris have kept in touch throughout the NBA draft evaluation process, even rooming together in Chicago when they arrived for the May 18 combine.
Hopson measured in at 6-foot-6, 202 pounds, with the wingspan of 6-11. Harris was 6-7, 223, and also had a 6-11 wingspan.
Hopson, who averaged 17 points per game while shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range and 73.5 percent from the free-throw line, is projected strictly as a shooting guard.
Harris, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and shot 75.3 percent from the free-throw line and 30.3 percent from three, has been viewed primarily as a small forward with a few teams also looking at him as a power forward.
DraftExpress.com projects that Harris will be selected with the No. 22 overall pick by the Denver Nuggets, while NBADraft.net has Harris going 18th in the first round to the Washington Wizards.
Hopson is projected to go 54th overall (second round) to the Cleveland Cavaliers by DraftExpress.com, while NBADraft.net does not have him as a projected draft pick.
Both of the websites said Hopson’s interviews with some NBA general managers have raised eyebrows, as he came off a tad too confident.
Hopson said he feels like maybe he was misunderstood.
“I felt like some people took that the wrong way,’’ Hopson said. “Confidence is the first part of being a great player. If you know you put the time in and dedicate yourself to the game, you will see positive results.
“There have been some challenging times over the last month, so I appreciate how the fans in Tennessee have all been very loyal and supported me.’’
Pearl, who will be at the draft tonight with his former players, said he believes Hopson will make it in the NBA.
“I think you have to understand, Scotty Hopson is one of the top 10 athletes in this draft and Scotty Hopson’s athleticism and talent are lottery level,’’ Pearl said. “The bottom line is this: if Scotty gets his motor running all the time, Scotty is an NBA player for a long, long time.’’
Pearl said Harris’ youth is an upside for him during the NBA teams’ evaluations, and most all know he will improve his game once in the professional ranks.
“Tobias’ situation has been fairly consistent in the evaluations and the range that he’s slotted for in the draft,’’ Pearl said. “Interestingly, more people are looking at him as a three, instead of a four, and that’s because he has an ability to pass and shoot it, and size wise he’s more of a three. So his situation has more stability
“But I think you’ll see both Scotty and Tobias get drafted, and that’s something Tennessee fans should be very excited for, as it reflects well on the program and will help Coach (Cuonzo) Martin in recruiting for many years.’’