Some players go from top high school recruit to NBA star without a speed bump. Other players finally make it to the league via the road less traveled. Everyone’s path to the NBA is different, which is what makes it so special when a player finally achieves their dream.
Scotty Hopson was a phenom. The No. 5 recruit in the nation in 2008, Hopson was a five-star recruit to the University of Tennessee under head coach Bruce Pearl. But after a strong junior season in which he averaged 17.0 points per game, Hopson went undrafted in 2011 and went overseas.
In between then and now, Hopson has played professionally in Greece, Israel, Turkey, Spain, the G League, China, then Israel again, Croatia, then Turkey again. Along the way, he appeared in two games for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the tail end of the 2013-14 season, scoring one point in seven minutes. He’s played basketball all over the world since then just to get another taste of the NBA, and he now has his chance with the Mavericks on a 10-day contract.
“I’m totally thrilled,” Hopson said. “I know this team needs some help, and I’m just glad to get the opportunity to come in and help them.”
“It just feels good to be back,” he added. “I feel like I belong here, and I’m gonna do what I can and have to do to stick.”
Most recently, Hopson spent the 2017-18 season with Galatasaray in Turkey, where he averaged 11.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 13 games.
At 6-foot-7, Hopson gives the Mavericks some sorely needed length on the wing. Between the nearly season-long absence of Dorian Finney-Smith and an already imbalanced roster size-wise, there’s a chance Hopson could slide in and play minutes almost immediately.
“Whatever they need, I’m willing to do,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of basketball. I’m just gonna come in and stay as focused as possible and stay determined and focused on the main goal, and that’s just to help this team get better while I’m here.”
Players on 10-day contracts have a tough job. Not only do they have a limited period of time to learn the playbook and prove themselves to the coaches and front office on an individual level, but they have to do so while also staying within their role on the team. It’s got to be a big challenge to impress without doing too much. That’s part of what made Yogi Ferrell’s emergence last season such an incredible story: It’s not as easy as he made it seem.
Hopson’s case is a little different than many 10-day players, though, because he has a bit of experience at the NBA level and has played overseas for years. He’s not new to the pro game at all, and credits his time spent in Europe and Asia as an opportunity to grow as a player and person.
“I’ve just expanded my overall entire game,” he said. “I think he main thing for me was just maturing on and off the basketball floor. I’ve learned to do that a great deal, and I understand what it is to be a professional, a consummate professional. I think that’s what’s helped me get this far.”
One other thing working in Hopson’s favor: He already knows some of his teammates, and many have been aware of him for years. Harrison Barnes, for example, called Hopson a “legend” at the high school level. (Barnes was a sophomore when Hopson was recruited to Tennessee.) Many Mavericks players were in high school or middle school when Hopson was a top-notch recruit.
Hopson’s Tennessee squad actually faced off against Wesley Matthews and Marquette on Dec. 16, 2008, early in Hopson’s freshman season. Matthews, then a senior, scored 30 points on 12 shots and went a whopping 15 of 18 from the free throw line, but Hopson’s Vols took the game, 80-68.
The Mavs connections run a little deeper, too. Hopson was actually traded in July 2014 from Cleveland to Charlotte for former Maverick Brendan Haywood and the draft rights to Dwight Powell, who would eventually be traded to Boston and later to Dallas. Later that summer, Hopson was traded to Sacramento for another Mavs champion, Jason Terry.
Suffice it to say that Hopson has paid his dues. He’s put in the work overseas to get another shot at the NBA and he’s earned that opportunity. The first shot he makes with the Mavericks will be his first NBA field goal. His story makes him an easy guy to root for. After all these years, Hopson has another chance to show what he’s got, and he’s determined to take advantage of it.