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Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

March 10, 2003

Clemson: Unheralded Scott Reached Elite

CLEMSON — Edward Scott emerged from the weight room last month doubled over in pain and breathing heavily.

Clemson basketball strength coach Shannon Patterson had challenged Scott to perform 100 pushups in a row after lifting weights. Scott, who is perhaps the most competitive person on the team, could not refuse the challenge.

“I got it,” he proudly informed teammate Olu Babalola outside the locker room. “It hurts, though, boy.”

Scott's transformation into one of the elite players in the ACC always has been strenuous. An unheralded recruit out of high school, he overcame several significant injuries early in his college career. As a senior, he has willed Clemson into its first postseason appearance since 1998-99.

In the regular season, Scott was the second-leading scorer in the ACC at 18.3 points per game and fifth in assists with 5.5, along with 3.4 rebounds. During a three-game February winning streak that pulled the Tigers into fifth place, Scott averaged 28.7 points and shot 52 percent from the field, 62 percent on three-pointers.

“He's saying, ëFollow me guys,' and that's what we're doing,” forward Chris Hobbs said. “I know how determined he is about this season. He never gave up on the season. It's his last one in college. You only get four tries.”

The development of Scott is another case study of how Clemson tries to recruit. The
McDonald's All-Americans will rarely pass over the Marylands, Dukes and North Carolinas of the ACC, so the Tigers look for diamonds in the rough such as Greg Buckner, Terrell McIntyre and Will Solomon.

Scott barely registered as a top-150 player by most recruiting services. Other than Clemson, Georgetown and Texas Christian showed the most interest. Even though Scott grew up in Eastover, S.C., right near the South Carolina campus, former Gamecocks coach Eddie Fogler was not interested because he had Aaron Lucas for three more years.

That left Clemson. In his first recruiting class, coach Larry Shyatt originally hoped to pair Scott with sharpshooting guard Todd Billet. But Billet instead chose Rutgers and later transferred to Virginia. The Tigers signed high-scoring guard Ronald Blackshear, but he did not qualify academically and jumped around to Temple and then Marshall. He is now one of the nation's leading scorers.

“I think about Ronald a lot, a lot,” Shyatt said, smiling at the thought of having Scott and Blackshear in the backcourt. “I respect our institution for taking the position they did, but I'm very happy for Ronald that he has experienced success at Marshall.”

Scott's freshman year was brutal, as he lost six games to injury. He broke his left foot early during the 1999-2000 season yet continued to play through often excruciating pain, averaging 6.5 points, shooting 31 percent and committing 53 turnovers to just 69 assists. Freshman guards Jason Williams and Joseph Forte gathered all of the attention in the conference, making Scott's recruitment appear questionable.

“I'm disappointed the public only saw the games and didn't see behind the scenes,” Shyatt said. “They would have a higher level of respect and a higher level of sensitivity. It was an extraordinary sacrifice simply to play games and represent Clemson.”

To the outsider, Scott looked like a mediocre ACC player — at best. He stood just 6-0 and weighed about 145 pounds. Many critics compared his game with that of former N.C. State player Justin Gainey, another undersized point guard.

“I heard that a lot,” Scott said. “It went around that I didn't belong in the ACC for a while. It motivated me to get back healthy.”

Except his health continued to deteriorate. That same season, Scott tore cartilage in his chest. He also encountered more painful foot problems. Because his broken foot prevented him from planting, he overcompensated and would stop on his tip-toes. That caused blood to form inside both big toenails, which had to be removed to lessen the pain. Later, Scott had problems with the pin that was inserted into his broken foot. He averaged 7.3 points and 4.2 points as a sophomore, but also shot a miserable 21 percent on three-pointers — down from 33 percent the previous year.

It wasn't until the ACC regular season began during his junior season that Scott finally felt healthy. He showed glimpses of the attacking scorer and playmaker he could be and made third-team All-ACC. He averaged 11.9 points and 7.9 assists while raising his field goal accuracy to 41 percent. He had a 30-point, 16-assist game against Wake Forest, and an amazing 36 points, eight rebounds and seven assists on 12-of-15 shooting against Florida State.

“I used to play against one of the best guys in the ACC every day, Will Solomon, so I knew I could do it,” Scott said. “A lot of the fans doubted me.”

It is clear from listening to Scott how much he internalized those doubts. They were the challenge each year, pointing out what he couldn't do — rather than all he could do — as if to remind him he would reach only a certain level.

Growing up, Scott had three older sisters who played varsity basketball. The youngest sister was seven years older than Scott, meaning just playing ball in the backyard meant coming with attitude. Clemson has been no different. With quiet confidence and tough determination, Scott has been matched against some of the elite players in the country over the last four years.

During the 2002-03 regular season, Scott averaged 38.4 minutes per game and played a complete game 10 times. Other ACC players combined to have just 12 complete games.

“Strength is his strength,” Shyatt said. “I remember coming back from Wyoming, and Ed was the first person we had been told about who had been contacted (as a recruit). The only thing on my mind was what McIntyre meant to the program and me personally. Sort of like Eric Murdock with me at Providence. You go through cycles like that. This is another one of those cycles.”

In February, Scott became the ninth player in ACC history to reach career totals of 1,000 points, 500 assists and 400 rebounds. The other eight were similar cyclical players who meant so much to their teams: Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Delvon Arrington, Tony Akins, Drew Barry, Brian Oliver, Ed Cota and Steve Blake.

And now Edward Scott, the short, skinny kid who was supposed to crash and fall under the brunt of one of the nation's premier conferences.

“It's interesting,” Scott said, reflecting on his career. “All the talk I heard makes right now a little bit better, just for the fact that you know you overcame so much.”

— Jon Solomon, Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail

Duke's Jones: Controversial, Consistent

DURHAM — He had just slammed down a monster dunk over 6-10 Nick Vander Laan to end any hope of a Virginia comeback at Charlottesville. Knocked to the floor because of a foul, Dahntay Jones did something that almost certainly was a first in Duke basketball history.

He did some pushups.

Predictably, it enraged the UVa fans, who weren't happy anyway because the Blue Devils were on the way to handing them their first home loss. But it was typical of Jones, an emotional player who often acts before he thinks.

Mike Krzyzewski would prefer that Jones be somewhat more under control. But he never has chastised the senior publicly. “Dahntay is not a bad guy,” Coach K said after a recent home game, in which Jones was the focus of another incident.

Against N.C. State, early in the contest, Jones fouled Julius Hodge as he was dribbling up the court. But Hodge, another player whose emotions often get the best of him, couldn't let well enough alone. He gave Jones an elbow in the mouth, and it drew blood. For that, Hodge was hit with a technical.

After the game, which Duke won 79-68 as Jones scored 21 points, Dahntay was unable to talk with the media. Normally one of the most accessible players on the team, his mouth was so swollen he had to head to the training room.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Can't talk.”

That in itself is a rarity for just the second transfer ever to play for Coach K. Like the other one, Roshown McLeod, Jones is from New Jersey. He isn't going to be an All-American, as McLeod was in his senior year, but he's a likely first-team All-ACC choice.

Krzyzewski, who has had to deal with inconsistent play all season on a team that has six freshmen, calls Jones the most consistent of all.

“He's had two bad games,” Krzyzewski said. “We lost both of them. That shows you his value.”

At Florida State, Jones was 1-for-10. Against Wake Forest, he didn't scratch in 12 attempts from the field, although he did make 10 free throws. Otherwise, he has been in double figures in every game and is Duke's leading scorer, with an average of 17 points.

It's not like Jones, listed at 6-6 but at least an inch shorter, is merely an offensive player. He's also the team's best defender, and he has guarded opponents from point guards to centers. On one occasion, against State, which utilizes a Princeton-like offense and keeps most of its people on the perimeter, Jones was the tallest Duke player on the floor. He guarded Hodge most of the night, but he's also gone against Clemson point guard Ed Scott and Wake Forest forward Josh Howard.

Although Howard is the overwhelming favorite to become the league's player of the year, he's never had a good game against Duke. In the Deacs' double-overtime victory in Winston-Salem, which snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Blue Devils, Howard fouled out with 10 points. Howard and Jones tangled coming up the court on one occasion, and a double-foul was called when they both hit the floor.

Jones, who often has a scowl on his face, demonstrates often after one of his dunks, and in Cameron, he can raise his arms and ask the Crazies for more support. He has a tattoo on his arm that reads “Never Satisfied.”

An excellent student — he was an All-ACC academic selection last year — Jones began his career at Rutgers, where he averaged a team-leading 16 points as a sophomore. But the constant losing frustrated him, and he called Duke after deciding to transfer. One reason was that he was a close friend of Blue Devils superstar Jason Williams.

After sitting out the 2001 season but providing the national championship team with superior play as a practice opponent — “it really helped to have a great player to go against every day,” Williams said — Jones was a starter for all but three games last season. He averaged 11.2 points but clearly was the fourth option behind Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer, three juniors all headed for the NBA. This year, Jones has become a leader. In February he joined Nick Horvath as new captains of the team, along with the initial choice, Chris Duhon.

In one respect, Jones is similar to Williams, now with the Chicago Bulls. He is an only child whose parents have embraced his career. Although Duke plays all over the country, Larry and Joanne Jones rarely miss a game, home or away. Joanne has missed one game in two years, and Larry only a couple. They often work a half-day near their home in Hamilton Square, N.J., then head to the Newark Airport. They sit behind the Duke bench, take Dahntay out for a late dinner after the game, then catch an early morning flight home.

“I'm an only child,” Jones said. “So for my mother, I'm like her hobby. This is what she enjoys. It means a lot to me. I know they are cheering for me every game. I know I have a support group. I know I have somebody I can turn to, even when I'm down, who's going to look me in the eye and tell me the truth and keep me going. It's great to have them here.”

Jones may be a lightning rod for scorn from the opposition, but he knows he's never alone when it comes to support.

— Bill Brill, USBWA Hall Of Fame

N.C. State: Crawford An Old-Style Success

RALEIGH — The thing about the current state of college basketball is that fans rarely get to watch players develop anymore. A hyper-talented athlete comes into college basketball nowadays, puts in his two years and is then off to seek his fortunes in the NBA.

Maybe that's why it's so satisfying when a player with obvious limitations develops for four years and turns into a significant contributor by his senior year, erasing some of the memories of past disappointments or failures. N.C. State's Anthony Grundy was that kind of player last year.

This season, Grundy's former roommate, Wolfpack point guard Clifford Crawford, has gone through a similar transformation. A role player without much of a role coming into the season, Crawford was a favorite scapegoat of fans throughout the offseason, when they persistently wondered who the team's point guard would be.

“I was very aware of that,” Crawford said. “I took it as an inspiration to show that N.C. State does have a point guard. If you forget about me, you won't when the lights come on.”

Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek didn't help much, answering the point guard question by suggesting that his offensive system didn't really need a point guard, which was perceived by some to be as much of a slap at Crawford as anything posted on an internet message board. But Crawford indeed has made several teams pay when the lights came on, both on offense and on defense.

Crawford scored 21 points, making five three-pointers, against Duke. He played outstanding defense against some of the league's top players, including Maryland's Drew Nicholas, North Carolina's Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton, Clemson's Ed Scott, Duke's J.J. Redick and Georgia Tech's B.J. Elder.

There's no doubt, however, that Crawford has had a trying career at times with the Pack. He obviously was talented coming out of Glenn High School near Winston-Salem, athletic enough as a quarterback to be recruited by East Carolina, North Carolina and others to play football.

But Wolfpack assistant Larry Harris saw Crawford play in the summer before his senior year and convinced Sendek to offer Crawford a scholarship instead of Steve Blake, a Miami product who was a close friend of former N.C. State standout point guard Chris Corchiani. Blake has started for his entire career at Maryland, leading the Terrapins twice to the Final Four and to last year's NCAA title.

Crawford often struggled to mesh his basketball ability with his athletic ability. He was often out of control, which led to more than 80 turnovers as a sophomore and reduced playing time as a junior, when Grundy and Archie Miller were the team's floor leaders.

When Ilian Evtimov got hurt in the preseason last fall, it all but ensured that Crawford would have to play more. He has responded by averaging more than 32 minutes a game, despite an early season ankle injury, a pulled back muscle in January and a strained hip flexor that nearly kept him out of the lineup at the end of the regular season.

“It was very tough being here my first two or three years,” Crawford said. “I wasn't playing as much as I wanted to. I didn't put my head down. I just kept working. I knew my time would come. Finally, I stepped in and got the minutes I would like. I worked for it. I don't think just because I was a senior, it was given to me.”

As the only senior on the Wolfpack roster, he used his experiences to be, of all things, a calming influence to excitable players such as Julius Hodge. As the season progressed, he proved to be a valuable leader, on the court and off.

He's had some help in getting to that point. Throughout the season, Crawford exchanged
e-mails and phone calls with Grundy, who now plays professionally in Germany. Grundy, who became a first-team All-ACC player last year after three inconsistent seasons for the Wolfpack, keeps up with the Pack's progress — and Crawford's performance — through friends and the internet. They've talked about how to be a better leader and how to improve the team.

“I have told him to think about the season I had and build off of that,” Grundy said. “I also have been telling him to take charge of that team cause it is his final year and every senior wants to go out with a bang. I told him that consistency was the key.”

Crawford didn't go out and score 21 points every night, as he did in the Wolfpack's upset of Duke. He still committed more turnovers than Sendek would have liked. But he always played great defense, something he learned by watching Grundy and by developing his own athletic skills.

Crawford leads the team in steals and deflections, and he has made shots when needed. He averaged 9.3 points a game during the regular season, shooting better than 50 percent from the field and averaging 4.4 rebounds a game. He provided contributions the depth-shy and rebound-deficient Wolfpack sorely need.

With seconds remaining in an early March game against Clemson, an ailing Crawford put his defensive glove on Scott, who had the ball in his hands and was looking to hand the Pack its second consecutive loss with a last-second three-pointer. Crawford, who strained a hip flexor muscle three days earlier against Maryland and needed treatment right up until game time, slapped the ball out of Scott's hands as he went up for a potential game-winning shot.

“He did a great job on defense, so I have got to give him credit,” Scott said after the 63-60 Wolfpack win. “I didn't barely have room to breathe at the end. He's a very underrated player in this league and, to me, he looks like the heart and soul of that basketball team. Anybody who can play like he did under those circumstances is very valuable.”

— Tim Peeler, Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record

Maryland: Nicholas Waited, Finally Thrived

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland guard Drew Nicholas' turn in the spotlight seems over in a flash.

He waited three years behind Juan Dixon for his chance to become the Terrapins' leading scorer this season, as a senior. Nicholas shook off brief thoughts of leaving after his sophomore season, for fear of missing the team's national championship last year. He knew patience would pay off, and it has.

“Two Final Fours and a national championship team is a great feeling,” Nicholas said. “I didn't even dream of winning an NCAA championship as a child.”

Nicholas was a skinny kid from Long Island with a three-point shot and no inside game when he arrived at Maryland in 1999. Dixon became the big name, while Nicholas' fellow freshman Steve Blake started at point guard. Nicholas was considered a nice luxury who could pump in a couple of baskets while Dixon rested or give Blake a break from ball-handling.

But Dixon's graduation last spring left Nicholas with a dual-edged sword of finally starting on a team that lost four starters and wasn't expected to come close to matching last year's greatness. It was supposed to be a transition year for the Terps, but Nicholas wasn't about to see his standout season be remembered as a letdown.

Could Nicholas overcome defenses focusing on him and score the pressure shots? He quickly answered, with 29 points in an 84-77 victory over Georgia Tech on Dec. 29. He later scored 20 or more in five other games, averaging 17.5 points for the regular season.

“It's one thing to say, ëI'm going to step up and do it,' but you don't realize the pressure involved,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “He's had to work harder this year, in terms of preparing himself. After winning last year, it's asking a lot for a senior to work harder. It has been a great thing to watch Drew go from being a shooter to a basketball player.”

Suddenly, there were women holding signs in Comcast Center's student section asking Nicholas for dates. He may be a one-year wonder of sorts, after averaging five to seven points in his first three seasons, but he felt vindication for the long wait.

“It's about staying tough, just waiting your turn,” Nicholas said. “It's something a lot of guys don't want to do. They don't want to sit behind a guy. A lot of guys these days get to play early on. I never got that luxury. I really think it's helped me become a better basketball player. You learn things. You get smarter and wiser.”

Opposing ACC coaches also appreciate Nicholas' patience. Seniors around the league seem more rare than money-making stocks, as many underclassmen routinely bolt for the NBA. Maryland, however, started five seniors this season regularly, and the benefits of their experience weren't lost on opponents.

“Drew should be applauded for being patient and learning and now being a primary player,” Georgia Tech Paul Hewitt said. “More people need to be talking about him as the model of a student-athlete.”

Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: “Nicholas is what every coach likes — developing over four years, and when his time comes he shines. He certainly should be in consideration for first-team all-conference.”

Nicholas developed an inside game this season that let him nearly match his 142 free throw attempts over his first three years.

“I love getting to the foul line,” he said. “I know a lot of people labeled me a shooter, but if I have to get an offensive rebound for two points I'll do it.”

Said Williams: “Drew's stealing the ball more. He's getting to the free throw line more. He's getting rebounds. That wasn't part of his game, but being with Juan the last couple of years he figured that out. Drew's got a good release, but he doesn't take many bad shots. For as many points as he scores, he doesn't force it as much.”

Nicholas is on track to earn his degree in government and politics this summer. The son of a high school principal, he wants to become a prep coach following an expected look by the NBA.

“The degree means a lot more to my mom. I won't be able to come back home if I don't have my degree,” Nicholas joked. “I want to become a coach at some point, and you have to have a degree.”

Nicholas looks at freshman teammates with envy. He would like to remain another season. After all, it has been a quick ending to a long journey.

“I wish I could have that opportunity to play major minutes for more than one year,” he said. “I played behind a pretty good player for three years. It gave me a sense of urgency. I'm trying to leave a lasting impression.

“This is the best time of your life. You don't have to worry about paying bills. Your parents still send you money occasionally. Ö It's sad it has to end.”

— Rick Snider, Washington Times

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