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Regarding Hopson

I think it might be a good idea to revise and extend my remarks about Scotty Hopson.

As many of you know by reading me in the threads, I was never high on Scotty Hopson's recruitment.  The kid had a reputation, and that reputation is/was that he was all about Scotty and getting to the Association as fast as possible.  Scotty Hopson was not a Kentucky boy, he was an import from Florida, and it is highly unlikely he grew up a Kentucky fan.  Very early in his recruitment by Kentucky, back during the Tubby Smith days, Hopson made some comments that were very off-putting to me.  I think Smith was very wary of Hopson, and he was not a recruiting priority for him.  Smith made that known, and Hopson reacted by signing with Mississippi State.

Enter Billy Gillispie.  Hopson was waffling on his commitment to MSU the moment Gillispie set foot in the Bluegrass state, and made that fact known to anyone who would listen.  Yet Gillispie refused to take the bait, once apparently referring to Hopson in comments that essentially said he would not recruit an athlete who was committed verbally to another school.  Now, you and I both know that while that attitude is laudable, it is what we used to call "unilateral disarmament" in geopolitics.  Gillispie didn't get the reputation as one of the best recruiters in the nation by unilateral disarmament.

Jeff Drummond of The Cats Pause (subscription required) wrote a post on their subscription board today that essentially says the same thing that I have been thinking -- Gillispie gave the appearance of recruiting Hopson hard to insulate him from accusations of letting another Chris Lofton out of the state.  Do I think Gillispie would have taken Hopson if he had wanted to come?  Yes, you don't turn down McDonalds All-Americans in today's recruiting game, it just isn't done unless there is some kind of eligibility issue.  In the opinion of this writer, though, Gillispie did not make Hopson a priority (even though he may never admit that), and there are good reasons why that happened.  It is clear to me that Hopson would most likely have had difficulty under the kind of coach that Billy Gillispie is, and Gillispie would not have compromised with him.  I am convinced Gillispie knew this since day one, and that's why he seemed to be almost looking for an excuse not to recruit Hopson.  He would have loved to have Hopson's talent, but I don't think he believed Hopson would have been willing to do what the Kentucky coach requires of his charges.

Ultimately, I think Hopson is a much better fit at Tennessee.  I'm not saying that in any way to impute a negative toward Bruce Pearl.  Most of you know how I feel about Pearl, and I am not shy about pointing out the things I dislike about the Sweaty One.  However, I think there is a big difference between the way Pearl and Gillispie relate to players, and both their styles work for them.  Scotty Hopson is more likely to accept Pearl's style than Gillispie's in my opinion.

Matt Jones points out today that losing Hopson to Tennessee is a "big deal" despite what many in the Big Blue Nation say.  I beg to differ with him.  It is not a big deal, it is a relatively small one.  Hopson was never likely to come here, and quite frankly, I think he may have clashed so strongly with Gillispie that the negative outweighed the positive, much as was the case with Alex Legion.  Nobody can say that Legion's sudden departure did not damage the team.  It was a distraction that magnified the difficulty the Wildcats were suffering at the time, and another such case would would force Gillispie to explain why he was "running off" so many high-profile players in the middle of seasons.  With Hopson, it would have been tenfold worse than with Legion because he went to high school in Kentucky, and many Kentucky fans had their hearts set on him.  I think Billy Gillispie knew this all too well.

So in the end, the l'affaire d'Hopson ended much as it began, with Hopson at another school.  To me, it matters only a little that he is now committed to Tennessee rather than Mississippi State.  I have confidence in our program, our coach and our team, and the matriculation of Hopson to UT did nothing at all to shake that.  To the contrary, the way it was handled gave me a new respect for Gillispie's savvy, and just another reason to smile when he gives us that "Aw, shucks, I'm just an ol' country boy" thing he has down pat.