Photo courtesy of Niagara University Athletics.
By David Cordova
A lot of players go through high school unnoticed and underrated and then when they get the chance to play college basketball, they make the most of their situation. In many cases, the forgotten rises to become the favored.
One player that has risen from obscurity is Matt Scott. The 6-foot-4 senior guard from Niagara University is one of the most lethal scorers in the nation. When he’s on the floor, he can torch opposing defenses for baskets when left undefended. Right now, he is the second-leading scorer for the Purple Eagles at 19.9 points per game.
“Well, I’ve been playing since I was a youngin’, and I’m the type of player that’s always in the gym, I work hard, I like to lead from the front and that carries on to what I do, season in and season out,” says Scott.
Scott hails from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York and is from the Marcy Houses building complex, which is also the area that produced legendary rappers such as Memphis Bleek and Jay-Z.
His upbringing in basketball was a little different than most of his peers. “I didn’t play AAU, so most of my games and where I was playing at was in the park, I was playing park basketball all the time. And being from Brooklyn, it’s like, real gritty, so it just made me a better player, it made me aggressive and tough, and it made a more dimensional player, because I had to rebound, I had to pass, like sometimes I had to play with guys that weren’t really that good and sometimes I was playing with guys that were that good, so it just made my game real better, I became more gritty,” says Scott.
He also credits his development to his battles in the park and his high school days at Brooklyn Law & Technology High School. “In high school, my coach trained me to do the same thing. I basically just got better at what I was good at.”
At Law & Tech, Scott played three years on the varsity squad. He played some big games in his senior season, scoring 32 points against perennial powerhouse Christ the King, 42 points against Monsignor Scanlan and 28 points against another Brooklyn school in Abraham Lincoln. He averaged 28.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in his final season in high school.
“Law & Tech, those were some good times,” says Scott about his high school days. “I was the first Division I athlete [to come out of the school]. But there were a lot of guys that was pretty good already. But at Law & Tech, I was coached by a great coach named Kenny Pretlow, and the countless he work he put me through and all the exposure he got me from playing in tournaments all over really helped me.”
Scott had some interest from several schools when it came to his recruitment, but then when it was said and done, he chose Niagara when they offered him a scholarship. When asked about his decision to attend the school in upstate New York, he replied, “Well, Niagara was on me the most and I visited the school and I felt it was a great fit for me. But, it was just like a loyalty thing, they showed the most love to me, so I definitely had to go there.”
As a freshman, he averaged 5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Then, as a sophomore, he stepped up his game and averaged 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. His junior season was an even better performance with 17 points and seven rebounds per game.
However, in his first three seasons, the Purple Eagles were a struggling program, going a combined 25-70 during that span. This season, Niagara has enjoyed a quick turnaround, as they are now 17-10 overall and 10-4 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, commonly known as the MAAC.
When asked about the team’s turnaround, Scott replied, “Well, this year, it’s really different. This year, we got like a core group of guys that stayed from last year. This is the first time that ever happened. But as you can see, the chemistry is there and the experience is there and it’s going a long way, we’re learning how to close out games and we’re just playing together.”
When asked if he felt that this year’s Purple Eagles changed the culture, he replied, “We didn’t really change the culture, ’cause a couple years ago, we was great and we went downhill, but we’re trying to get back to where it was at, ’cause Niagara was pretty big in the basketball category a couple of years ago.”
With Niagara playing well this season, there’s no doubt that they’re one of the contenders for the MAAC championship, which they haven’t won since 2007. When asked if he felt like they could win the conference title and possibly get to the NCAA Tournament, he replied, “Of course, that’s what we’ve been doing [preparing] game in and game out. We’re just going to take it one game at a time, and keep our heads through the wins and losses.”
At one juncture this season, Scott was ranked third amongst NCAA schools in scoring with 25.3 points per game. When asked about that feat, he replied, “Well, I don’t really pay attention to that, I’m just a natural scorer and that’s what I do. So that’s what I’m trying to do for my team, help them win as much games as possible.”
Scott has already reached the 1,000-point plateau and has already done everything he has set out to do, but one thing: win a MAAC championship and earn a trip to the Big Dance. This season, he hopes to make that dream a reality.
When asked about how he wants to be remembered when he graduates from Niagara this spring, he replied, “I think my game has spoken for itself, like, I play hard, every night, I’m a good kid, I’m a respectable kid, and I play basketball, so the fans at Niagara, I think they love me because of that. But after college, I just want to take the best opportunity that’s given to me to play basketball professionally.”
Not a bad choice for the kid from the Marcy Projects.
Highlights of Matt Scott:
Courtesy of Doc Nice.
Courtesy of ESPN.
Courtesy of Niagara PE.
Courtesy of Niagara PE.