Posted on: May 11, 2011 12:34 am
Posted by Matt Jones
It is an annual rite of passage that as the NBA draft deadline passes, commentators opine on whether a particular kid should have left his name in the draft or instead returned to college for another season. Often times, the decisions to enter the draft are clearly no brainers. Duke's Kyrie Irving has already been injured in college and nevertheless is still projected as a top three pick in this June's draft. Rationally, there was no reason for him to remain a Blue Devil. Sometimes the decisions are hard and can be rationally argued both ways, such as in the case of Kentucky's Terrence Jones. The UK freshman was projected a lottery pick by most NBA scouts and in such cases, it is almost always the best decision to enter the draft. But with a potential NBA lockout on the horizon and Jones's ability to showcase consistency and improve his overall game in college, his stock in next year's draft may very well rise, thus making his decision to return to Lexington understandable.
But every year there also those players who decide to remain in the draft for mystifying reasons and for whom one can't help but hope they know something the experts do not. Tennessee's Scotty Hopson is currently projected as the No.55 prospect by DraftExpress.com and is considered a likely first round pick by virtually no one who covers or is associated with the NBA draft. When I first heard that Scotty Hopson was testing the waters for the draft, I made a rational case for his decision. With Bruce Pearl having been let go and an unknown figure in Cuonzo Martin arriving in Knoxville, it could be argued that gathering information about where he stood in NBA teams' eyes could make some sense. My assumption was that Hopson would use the time to find out what everyone else seemingly knows, that inconsistent 6'6" shooting guards are a dime a dozen in professional basketball and he needs another year to prove to NBA scouts that he is worth a first round pick and a guaranteed contract in the league.
My assumption was incorrect. Hopson decided to keep his name in the draft and is now likely to suffer the fate that too many others who left before their time have seen in the past, perpetual residence in professional basketball limbo. By likely missing his best chance to establish a presence in the league (through entering with a three-year guaranteed first round contract), he will have to fight to avoid being another player with NBA-level talent who can't get a chance to make a consistent career in the NBA.
However Hopson seems to think I am incorrect. Actually scratch that. An "advisor" to Scotty Hopson, Larry Marshall, seems to think I am incorrect. In an interview with the Knoxville News-Sentinel before Hopson made his decision, Marshall said that Hopson "believes he's a solid first-round guy." Marshall says that he "likes his (Hopson's) chances" of making the league and believes Hopson is a "prototypical" NBA two-guard. When asked about those suggesting that Hopson is not projected as a first-round pick, Marshall dismisses them as "naysayers" who "aren't the ones writing the checks" in the league. Marshall goes on to suggest that any inconsistency in Hopson's game was a result of the inconsistency of the entire Tennessee team (how convenient) and that there will certainly be a team that jumps on his talent.
Maybe so. However in a moment of honesty, Marshall does acknowledge that if Hopson is going to likely be picked in the second round, "he should go back to school." He further suggests that if Hopson were to go back to school, "everyone knows that in another year, Scotty is a lottery pick." Leaving aside the obvious retort that everyone doesn't project Hopson to the lottery even next year (in fact it is unlikely), the statement as a whole is quite interesting. If Marshall acknowledges that Hopson is making a mistake if he is a projected second-round pick and if he believes that Hopson has lottery potential next season, what justification could he have in advising Hopson to enter the draft this season? Marshall suggests in the article that it isn't his decision, but if Hopson is going against this so-called "advisor", then what is Marshall's function in the first place?
The reality is that it is almost certainly the case that Marshall advised Hopson to enter the draft and will now "advise" him going forward in a more official capacity. The problem with many NBA draft decisions by college players is that the NCAA has taken away all common sense from the process. Rather than encouraging their self proclaimed student-athletes to gather all the information possible, work out for a number of NBA teams and truly "test the waters" as thoroughly as possible to make an education decision, the NCAA this year gave the players only 3 weeks to make a decision and required that they miss no class while being evaluated. This essentially meant that players only had two weekends to be evaluated by NBA teams and their final decision was due before the second weekend was even completed. Even worse, the NCAA is now moving towards eliminating this "test" period altogether, ensuring that in the future, the only information players like Hopson will receive before making a decision is from unregulated, and often unreliable, "advisors" like Marshall.
I admit that Hopson's case is especially troubling to me personally. I have watched Hopson play regularly since early in his high school career in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. From the beginning, he was an exceptional talent who could take over any game in which he was on the court. But he also always seemed to need some guiding influence on and off the court to take him to the next level. His entire high school and college career has been filled with moments where you saw an exceptional level of athleticism and basketball ability that suggested he could become something great, only to be followed with the disappointment of not reaching that potential and questions about a lack of work ethic and attitude issues. Off the court, Hopson has always been likable and the type of kid you secretly hope will succeed. But his decisions have always seemed to me to be influenced by the wrong people and his self-belief has never been tempered by those around him who should know better.
By entering the draft, Hopson has now made another decision I, and most everyone else who follows the NBA draft process, question. For his sake, lets hope this time it actually was the correct one.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 3:23 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
With a new coach, an undetermined roster and possible NCAA sanctions on the way, the University of Tennessee men's basketball program has elected to cancel a summer trip to Italy. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, newly hired head coach Cuonzo Martin and UT athletics director Mike Hamilton agreed that the trip, planned when Bruce Pearl was still head coach of the Vols, would be an ill-timed distraction in the upcoming transitional season.
The NCAA allows teams to make overseas trips once every four years, which means extra practice and playing time beyond the traditional fall start.
Oregon was scheduled to make a similar trip last season, and then-newly-hired head coach Dana Altman also decided to re-schedule. As fun and educational as such a trip might be, perhaps both coaches have the right idea - when in doubt, circle the wagons at home (when you're not personally busy in China, that is).
It's not as if the players on the current roster can really complain. As AD Hamilton indirectly pointed out in the excerpt above, Hawaii in November should be a pretty nice consolation prize for anyone feeling agita over the change in plans.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 8:16 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
March 18, 2011
CHARLOTTE - After a week of distractions regarding head coach Bruce Pearl's job security, it was a relief to finally get the student-athletes on the floor and let the basketball do the talking. Unfortunately the message his Tennessee team sent with their play was one of a defeated team. As they failed to rally from a second half defect and eventually fell to Michigan 75-45.
Tennessee forced the issue early, taking advantage of a Michigan frontline that could not compete with Tennessee's strength and size. Freshman forward Tobias Harris exploded for 19 points on 6-6 shooting and converted all seven free throw attempts in the first half. Tennessee clearly made Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. a priority, with Cameron Tatum shadowing his every move on the defensive end.
All eyes were centered on Pearl, and there he was screaming out offensive and defensive assignment with large arm motions and his familiar stomp. So basically it was just another game for the head coach of the Volunteers.
Michigan caught fire near the end of the first half driven by back-to-back threes after starting the half shooting 1 for 9 from deep. Pearl remained calm on the bench, but the frustrated look on Cameron Tatum's face after another missed opportunity showed the Volunteers getting sluggish. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Harris changed that all with a slam dunk of a Brian Williams assist. Michigan quickly drove the length of the floor as Darius Morris converted on a hook shot just before the buzzer. It was the perfect momentum swinger before the break, and the beginning of the end for the Volunteers.
Then the Wolverines came out of the halftime break with hopes of landing a knockout punch early. They brought the Big Blue faithful to their feet with a 21-4 run in the first eight minutes of the half. Tennessee struggled to answer any of Michigan's challenges. It was difficult to figure out whether it was Tennessee's inability to fire themselves up or cool the Wolverines, but the Volunteers looked helpless as they fell into a 14 point deficit by the first official timeout.
By the midpoint of the second half, the Volunteers had begun to lose their will. The Wolverines calmly milked a significant double-digit lead while the Volunteers defeated themselves possession after possession. Being outworked on the boards, Tennessee was outrebounded 35-24 by a team which they could have easily overpowered inside. When it was time for Tennessee to dig in deep and mount a comeback, they took poor jump shots and added to their count of 18 turnovers.
So what does that reflect about their head coach? This could have been any other two teams in the tournament and you would have doubted the team's preparation. But with this specific case for Tennessee, it is the first spot you put the blame. When the media began questioning a somber Volunteer bunch regarding their coach after the game, they did not shy away from the controversy caused by athletic director Mike Hamilton.
"Of course it was a distraction, off-court and what not," remarked senior guard Melvin Goins. "But it is our responsibility as players to step up."
Junior guard Scotty Hopson also put the responsibility on the veteran players, for not pulling the unit together as a team. As for freshman Tobias Harris' explanation of the meltdown against Michigan?
"We just quit," Harris answered plainly.
What will likely get lost in the mix is a phenomenal run by Michigan to start the half. The Wolverines have shown how dangerous they can be recently, entering Friday's contest having won seven of their last ten. But even with Tatum stuck to Tim Hardaway, Jr. like glue, Michigan found production elsewhere on the floor.
Michigan head coach John Beilein deserves a ton of credit for getting his team ready to knockout a beaten giant. After all Tennessee has been to the NCAA tournament all six years under Pearl's tenure, reaching the Sweet Sixteen four times. Beilein, in just his fourth season as head coach of the Wolverines has already gotten Big Blue to the tournament twice. Considering the issues surrounding the program in the last two decades, Beilein's early success is reason for Wolverine fans to believe in hoops once again.
Beilein now returns to the floor, wondering how he can figure out a way to beat Duke. Bruce Pearl, on the other hand, returns to Knoxville. His challenge is far different: figure out a way to keep his job.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 12:58 pm
Posted by MATT JONES
It is likely that you skipped last night's South Carolina-Tennessee game on the SEC Network. There were other games on of more consequence, Survivor debuted or you may have even made the bizarre choice to spend time with your family. Well if you made any of those rational decisions, then you missed a candidate for college basketball's dunk of the year. This time it came from Tennessee's enigmatic Scotty Hopson, who dunked on a South Carolina player with resounding authority.
Try not to be totally focused on Hopson's "Kid 'N Play" haircut and instead enjoy the funk of the dunk. It may not be matched this year: