Antwan Scott is in the midst of the most important week of his basketball career. The Colorado State product was added to the Denver Nuggets' Summer League roster, as the team dominated, going 4-0 in four games, and acquired his first real taste of professional action. Multiple years of arduous work, a death in the family and a crippling leg injury made the journey that more satisfying.
Scott's unique timeline from fringe D-1 player to the Las Vegas Summer League has its roots in Ranger, Texas. Devoid of a smorgasbord of athletic scholarships to choose from, he opted to jump-start his collegiate career at Ranger Community College, which Scott said was a difficult decision. The spurning by schools that he wanted to go to only added additional fuel to a burning passion to reach the highest level of basketball.
Scott had an enormous impact, leading the team in scoring in two straight seasons (2010-11, 2011-12) and started to plant the seeds to what his role what be later in his career-a prolific three-point shooter. Scott led the NTJCAC, Ranger Community College's league, with 69 threes in the 2011-12 season and was the catalyst in the school's NTJCAC championship. Scott's passion to play Division I basketball led him to Idaho but he had to make a detour no individual would want to take part of.
Scott's mother, Theresa, endured multiple surgeries to solve back issues and she slipped into a coma in 2012. Only playing in one game for the Vandals, Scott transferred and enrolled at Grambling State, able to be closer to his mother. Theresa passed away in 2013 and Scott's redshirt season was dedicated towards making sure she was safe. The sorrow turned into a goal and Scott's passion to reach the NBA level only was fueled further after losing his parent.
"No matter what, even if you're gone, I'm still going to chase my dreams and play in the NBA," Scott said at his mother's funeral in October of 2013. Scott, at times, questioned whether he wanted to continue his collegiate career but his motivation allowed him to progress on a goal he was determined to complete. Scott speaks fondly of his father, Andrew, and has a excellent relationship with him-which has been a major assistance in Scott's career having family that cares and admires his perseverance.
It also was helpful that other players have previously dealt with adversity. Scott studied NBA players' career paths in order to find some guidance after the calamity he previously dealt with.
"I watched a lot of Jeremy Lin, Donald Sloan and Jonathon Simmons," Scott recalls. "I watched players who were overlooked and I just tried to stay motivated. I had to keep my faith to stay motivated."
Scott's steadfast affinity to compete and evolve his game proved to be essential in his one-year stint in Grambling State, a school more notorious for its team playing on the gridiron than on the court. It wasn't just a pit stop for his journey to the pros, the SWAC school in Louisiana turned out to be a haven for Scott to ideally showcase his skill set. He wasn't attracting D-1 coaches or scouts at Ranger but dominating at Grambling State could lead to additional opportunities, as a transfer option the following year.
During the 2013-14 season, Scott was immediately inserted as the starting point guard. The beauty of playing for Grambling State was the ability to flesh out some of the kinks in his offensive approach and operating as the team's lead ball handler. Despite finishing with 3.7 assists and 3.6 turnovers, Scott was given free reign of the offense, a rarity for an incoming talent who played his first two collegiate seasons at a community college.
He utilized the openness of role and contributed a team-high 15.7 PPG, while maintaining his dept three-point touch with 47 triples (39.2 percent). One of the reasons Scott wanted to transfer for the second time was that he coveted the challenge of playing at a higher D-1 level. Colorado State became the fourth home for the 6'2", 178-pound combo guard.
Scott's nomadic collegiate adventure concluded in Fort Collins, Colorado and his decision to play for the Rams turned out to be a saving grace for the talent who sought out a sanctuary to further improve. However, the circumstances turned sour for Scott, eager to become one of the top players as a senior in the Mountain West.
Scott suffered a broken foot prior to enrolling at CSU and early in the 2014-15 season he further injured it, as the complications forced the guard to miss most of the season. He played in just four games, scoring five total points, and was reluctantly declared a sixth season of eligibility. Scott's doubts surfaced and he acknowledges religion and having faith as one of the motivations to suit up for that important 2015-16 season, one that would garner him a paramount opportunity.
Through rehab and offseason repetition, Scott showed coaches his drive and hunger to salvage his place on the Rams roster. His work ethic shined.
"He's a complete gym rat," said his former trainer Leonard Perry, an associate head coach at Colorado State. "He's the hardest working college basketball player I've seen in my life and I've seen a lot of them. Every single time I saw him, he asked me if he could be in the gym to work on a part of his game. Antwan made it easy; he worked hard and is really competitive."
There wasn't any hint of hubris that could've misguided Scott. Head coach Larry Eustachy evidently saw a talented player and tried to incorporate Scott immediately back into the offensive game plan. Scott said that he wasn't "being himself" early in the season, being dealt a role he wasn't entirely comfortable with. Handling a challenge didn't roadblock Scott before and the 24-year-old effectively progressed with the continuous competition that was absent from his life for essentially two years. Eustachy told Scott to improve at the 2 and the seasoned guard answered.
"That's when I picked my game up and it gave me a little confidence," Scott said. "All my life I've been able to score the ball and at the end of the season I got back to being myself and being the scorer that I am."
Teetering at playing both point guard (1) and a shooting guard (2) at Colorado State, Scott was eventually able to focus on playing his brand of basketball en route to averaging 16.4 PPG (career-high), 4.3 RPG and 2.1 APG for the 18-16 Rams.
Perry was immensely beneficial towards improving Scott's overall game.
"We tried to work on his vision, seeing the floor, making the right reads on pick and rolls and taking care of the basketball in transition," Perry said. "When he's open, we encouraged him to shoot the ball because he's such a tremendous shooter."
That budding trait was a wild card in Scott's arsenal he could pull out at any occasion. However, there's a semblance of responsibility of being the primary three-point marksman.
"It's a great feeling but it comes with your coach being on your behind," Scott said. "You go 0-of-3 and he tells you to go the basket and you make two or three in a row and it's all good. There are pros and cons of being a great three-point shooter for your team."
In Scott's case, the pros of being an adept shooter from the perimeter heavily outweigh the cons, as teams can have confidence in his ability to sink a triple. There's also value in being able to be a threat from deep, as the league progresses into spacing the floor more on offense. Scott feels that his ability to stretch the floor could be beneficial in the future.
"I think me being able to shoot the ball really helps my chances of playing in the NBA someday because the teams are looking for guys to make shots," Scott said. "At the end of the day, it's about wins and losses and they want guys that can put the ball in the hole. I think I can shoot the three at a really high level; an NBA level."
Scott took 231 attempts from three last season, tied for 35th in the nation, but his efficiency stood out and he wasn't deemed a player that would disrupt possessions. His 41.6 percent clip form the outside was potent in the CSU offense and was important in Denver adding him to their Summer League roster.
Scott ironically received his first professional opportunity from an in-state team in the Nuggets, an organization loading up on emerging international talent and former first-round picks. With a roster featuring Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley (quite a backcourt), Scott's limited time on the floor is a product of playing in a crowded rotation. He's averaging just 2.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 1.0 APG but said he soaks up a lot of experience so far going against Mudiay, who Scott heavily admires.
"He changes pace, he's quick and plays so low to the ground," Scott said of the second-year point guard. "He plays at a good tempo and a good speed. I've been learning a lot throughout the practices, seeing that I'm ready but there is a lot more that I can learn to be even more ready to play at this level."
Even if Scott fails to make the Nuggets' roster this season, this isn't his only opportunity. Scott has the chance to be signed to another roster, enter the D-League draft or play overseas.
The past week has essentially been a glorified summer camp, with Scott able to blossom and grow from this brief experience. He's content with taking a detour and playing in another league.
"Internationally or the D-League might be an option," Scott said. "Talking with my agent, I'm the type of guy that wants a shot at the NBA one day so I'm going to keep knocking on the NBA door. Honestly, this is helping me. Showing me things I need to get better at."
Scott is relishing the moment but even if he doesn't suit up for an NBA team, Scott's perspective on his career and future is promising.
"This has been a great opportunity and I can handle adversity," Scott said. "I can definitely handle adversity playing in the D-League. I've been through a lot in life, so as long as I have faith in God I can just stay motivated. I feel like when the opportunity presents itself I can take advantage of it."
It might be speculation, but a roster spot could open up for Scott, as teams seek a sweet shooting combo guard with experience. His inclination is that playing lead guard will be his primary position in the future and has been priming for that role in recent workouts. Trying to fine tune his ball handling and polishing his jump shot arsenal outside of three-point attempts, Scott is on the cusp of playing professional basketball.
He calls the journey a "project," amped to eventually achieve his dream of playing in the NBA. Dedication to his craft, placing faith in his religion and future and finding a niche role in the game of basketball has Antwan Scott in a fortuitous opportunity that only has the chance to grow further.