Tennessee All-SEC shooting guard Scotty Hopson said Saturday that “the timing is right” for him to leave school after his junior season and make himself eligible for the NBA draft.
“I’ve pretty much been leaning toward leaving,’’ said Hopson, who has been working out with his trainer/advisor, Larry Marshall, since the season ended. “I just felt like the timing is right.’’
Underclassmen have until midnight today to withdraw their name from the NBA draft. The NBA draft is June 23.
Hopson, who at 6-foot-7 also can play on the wing, said there were other factors in his decision to not return for his senior season.
“With Coach (Bruce) Pearl gone, that played a lot into my decision,’’ Hopson said, referring to Pearl’s firing on March 21.
“There’s a whole new coaching staff coming in,’’ he said. “I’ve spoken with Coach (Cuonzo) Martin just about every day, and he’s been in the league he knows what it takes and there were some things he could bring out in me.
“But I feel like my game is here, and my game is ready.’’
Martin said he’ll be pulling for Hopson to make it in the NBA.
“I wish him the best of luck,’’ Martin said. “I wish we could have coached Scotty. He seems like a wonderful young man.’’
Hopson said he has spoken with a number of representatives from NBA teams, and they have been consistent in their praise and criticisms.
“Each team I’ve spoken to has liked me; the knock on me is, will I be consistent?’’ Hopson said. “I feel there are ways I can clear that up. It’s not like I don’t have the game or the skill set.
“I’m hearing that without that (consistency) question, I could be a top-five pick. I’ve got to put
together the intangibles and show my focus.’’
Hopson said his decision to leave Tennessee is not an easy one.
“It’s very tough; Tennessee is my home,’’ said Hopson, who led the Vols this season with 17 points per game, 53 made 3-pointers and a 37.6 shooting percentage beyond the 3-point arc. “It’s rough leaving all of that behind. Not just all the great fans, but my senior season, and now having to go back to finish my degree.’’
Hopson, who is projected by some as a second-round pick, said he will do whatever it takes to convince teams he’s worthy of their selection.
“I want to prove to teams that I can bring it each and every night,’’ he said. “I can be a good role player coming into whatever situation. I can do more than score points; I can facilitate, and I can help the team win.’’
Marshall said he believes Hopson can elevate his stock and be drafted in the first round. First-round draft picks are guaranteed contracts. Early picks in the second-round often get guaranteed contracts.
Freshman All-American Tobias Harris announced Friday that he, too, will not return to UT and will enter the NBA draft.
The departures of Hopson and Harris leave the Vols short on experience (one returning starter), size (two players 6-8 or taller) and scholarship players (10). Juniors Kenny Hall (6-8) and Jeronne Maymon (6-7) are the only returning frontcourt players. Senior Renaldo Woolridge (6-9) is a wing who will be moved to power forward. UT’s other returning scholarship players are: senior Cameron Tatum (6-6), sophomore Jordan McRae (6-6), junior Skylar McBee (6-3) and sophomore Trae Golden (6-1).
Martin has four players signed for the Class of 2011, but guard Chris Jones of Memphis Melrose has indicated he will attend Northwest Florida State Junior College and play for former UT assistant Steve Forbes.
The other players signed are: Quinton Chievous (6-5, Notre Dame High, Niles, Ill.); Josh Richardson (6-5, Santa Fe High, Edmond, Okla.) and Wes Washpun (6-1, Washington High, Cedar Rapids, Iowa).
“I’m looking forward to working with the guys we have signed and the guys we have coming back,’’ Martin said. “It’s basketball, and you make adjustments every year. I’m excited about the future.’’