Scott Regaining Confidence, Hoping Shot Will Follow
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Shannon Scott heard the groans. He could almost sense what people were thinking.
With every shot Trey Burke made during his freshman season at Michigan, it only seemed to intensify the spotlight on Ohio State’s young point guard. The Buckeyes could have had Burke. In fact, many felt they should have.
After all, he was a Columbus kid and the high school point guard of the Buckeyes’ star big man, Jared Sullinger. They were more than teammates. They were childhood buddies, both fiercely competitive and tremendously talented.
Sullinger’s talent was much more apparent coming out of high school, but Burke quickly developed into one of the top young players in the country as a rookie under Michigan coach John Beilein.
Meanwhile, Scott was struggling to find his role on a veteran OSU team that was headed for the Final Four. His confidence as the backup to Aaron Craft seemed shaky at best, and nonexistent the rest of the time.
“You definitely don’t want to make mistakes when you’re out there playing as a freshman,” Scott said.
“But Coach Matta talked to me about it. He just wants me to go out there and be the player he recruited out of high school, and I understand that now.”
Scott was a McDonald’s All-American at Milton High School down in Georgia, where he earned the Atlanta-Journal Constitution Player of the Year in 2011. He was also the Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year as a senior, averaging 14 points and 7.4 assists to go with 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals, while helping the Eagles to a 29-3 record.
In fact, his team was 82-15 with a state title and three championship game appearances over his final three seasons, but the pressure was not usually on Scott to be a dominant scorer for his basketball team.
“In high school, I feel like I was more athletic then a lot of players, so I felt like I could get to anywhere I wanted on the court,” said Scott, who gets up and down the court faster than any player Matta has coached, outside of maybe Mike Conley Jr.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“If I really needed to get a basket, I would probably do some type of pull-up. I kind of went back to that this summer to make that a go to move for me. I also worked on shooting threes and shooting open shots because I know that’s going to come this year.”
By the end of his rookie season, Scott wasn’t even being defended most of the time. He shot less than 30 percent from the floor and his outside game was a complete mess, at least statically. He made only one of his 18 attempts from behind the arc as a freshman and it carried over to the free throw line, where he was just 2-of-9 for the season.
“Confidence is a big deal,” said OSU assistant coach Chris Jent, who worked hard with Scott this offseason on his entire offensive game.
“It’s tough when you’re taking one or two shots; you take one shot and you miss it, and you do that for five games, you haven’t made a shot in five games. Well you’ve only taken five shots.
“That’s a little bit skewed, but that confidence factor, if you feel as though even when you shoot, it’s not going in … I’m not saying Shannon was in that boat, but when you become reluctant to shoot, you’re percentages go down even more.”
According to Jent, who played at Ohio State and worked in the NBA as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, Scott had good form on his shot but struggled with consistency.
As his confidence began to wane throughout his freshman season, Scott’s mechanics deteriorated. He looked hesitant to shoot the ball, and even hesitant to handle it because eventually he would have to face the reality that he was open enough to shoot it.
“Confidence is huge, but if guys feel as though they need to change, that’s the most important thing,” said Jent, who joined the team as an assistant last summer.
“They’re really going to hone in and listen and try to apply what you’re teaching them. If they feel like you’re just talking about something that doesn’t need to be changed, it’s harder. If they know you can help them, they’re going to listen and try to get it done.”
That’s exactly what Scott did basically the moment his freshman season came to an end with that heartbreaking loss to Kansas down in New Orleans. Classmate Sam Thompson was dealing with similar, though more mechanical, difficulties from his freshman year as well.
“This whole offseason we were basically come in getting shots up,” Scott said.
“We were capable of making shots last year, but we shied away from it. Now we know we have to make shots, so we stayed in the gym every day working with Coach Jent, getting shots up and finding different ways to create our own shots.”
The main thing Jent worked on with both Scott and Thompson was getting them to shoot the same shot every time. That way, they would form good habits when they were in the gym practicing.
“Last year, sometimes my hand would be coming back and sometimes it wouldn’t be,” Scott said.
“He just wants me to stay consistent, and once I do that my shot can be more at ease and feel better.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jent also felt Scott would be able to score more effectively if he stopped relying solely on his jump shot. With his quickness and ability to push the ball up the floor, especially when creates a turnover in transition, Scott should be able to get a lot better looks at the rim than he did last season.
“We worked on shooting floaters, shooting one dribble pull-ups, different types of finishes at the rim,” Scott said.
“He didn’t want us to focus on just shooting three pointers, he wants us to be able to create our own shot and create shots for others as well.”
That was certainly on display Saturday, when Scott dished out nine assists – one shy of his career-high set against UMKC earlier this season. He has now had three or more assists in each of his last four games and leads the team with 33 assists on the season.
That’s four more than starting point guard Aaron Craft, and while Scott only scored three points in Ohio State’s 89-55 blowout of Long Beach State, he did have five rebounds and two steals.
Scott’s offensive numbers are much better through the first seven games of his sophomore season. He’s shooting 42 percent from the floor and 33 percent from behind the arc, but he has struggled to find his shot over the last three games.
Since making 4-of-7 in the UMKC game, Scott is just 3-of-16 from the floor and 1-of-5 from behind the arc. The shot may not be falling, but Scott is no longer afraid to take them.
He can still hear the groans, but this time he’s planning to do something to make them go away.
“Fans probably want me to be a better scorer this year and I understand that,” the soft-spoken Scott said.
“I feel like I can do that. I spent a lot of time in the offseason so hopefully I can.”
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