The Tennessee men’s basketball team held its media day yesterday in Thompson-Bowling Arena in preparation for the 2010-2011 season.

Players were dressed in full uniform and took questions from media at their respective stations near the bottom of the stands. Bruce Pearl kicked off the day by addressing the media with his opinions and ideas for his new basketball team and the season at hand.

“As you guys know, this is my favorite time of the year,” Pearl said. “I think we’ve had a good offseason from the standpoint of our training. It has been a group that, together, has worked harder than any group I’ve had, from top to bottom.”

Pearl touched on the leaders emerging from this new group, saying that point guard Melvin Goins is the apparent leader of this squad, which features 13 scholarship players, the deepest of any Pearl-led Tennessee squad. 

Another player mentioned as a leader this season is his son, forward Steven Pearl, who Bruce Pearl jokingly added “has been in this program for 16 years.”

Guard Scotty Hopson was a player frequently mentioned in the coach’s press conference and in the Q-and-A session that followed. Pearl said he hopes that Hopson will not only continue to score for the Vols, but use his talents in other areas.

“I think Scotty can make plays,” Pearl said. “I think Scotty can score, and that’s something that’s indisputable. There are other areas in the game where I think he needs to place his focus and be more dominant as a great rebounding guard and defensive guard.

“Can he make plays off the ball? Can he use his length to block shots and get more deflections and steals and stuff his stat sheet with more than just scores, and therefore make his teammates better?”

Outside of his players, Pearl touched on this season’s schedule and told the small crowd of media reporters and cameras that, regardless of the age or talent of his team, the scheduling mindset stays the same.

“The schedule is terrific once again,” he said. “You don’t have a crystal ball when you put the schedule together, but you can pretty much anticipate that many of our non-conference opponents are nationally, perennially competitive programs. This year, that is the case once again.”

One of the new faces that were constantly surrounded by reporters courtside was Tobias Harris, a 6’8”, 220-pound freshman out of Dix Hills, N.Y. The lanky freshman forward gives Vol fans much hope for an incoming freshman class, which Pearl commended all afternoon.

“I think I’m a mature player on the basketball court,” Harris said.

In the offseason, Harris worked on a strenuous workout plan and is currently working with UT basketball assistant strength and conditioning coach Troy Wills to get stronger for play against the bigger men of SEC basketball.

“It’s been good,” Harris said. “I’ve been in the weight room with Troy, not really gaining weight but adding muscle.”

Tennessee opens up practice this Friday and then kicks off its preseason Nov. 3 against Brevard in Knoxville at 7:30 p.m. The Vols will open the regular season against UT-Chattanooga on Nov. 12 in Knoxville.