Carleton Scott lingered underneath the Joyce Center Monday afternoon until reporters finished with Mike Brey, now the forward’s former college coach. Dressed in a blue polo shirt, Scott leaned against the walls outside the Irish locker room waiting to detail a decision few saw coming and perhaps fewer still understand.
For a player who many feel is rushing his jump to the NBA, the delay belied a player whose patience for the next challenge has never been as long as his 6-foot-8 frame.
“Since my mom first put the basketball in my crib I always wanted to be an NBA player,” Scott said. “Just to have that dream one step closer is a great feeling.”
It’s also an uncertain one despite the relief Scott said he felt on Sunday night after making the formal decision to stay in the NBA draft following a season in which he was Notre Dame’s third-leading scorer (11.2 points per game) and top rebounder (7.4).
Brey attempted to re-recruit Scott to next year’s team that already lost Ty Nash and Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough. The rise of Hansbrough from supporting guard to All-American trumped promises about shots, minutes of publicity. Brey wanted Scott to have the kind of final year Hansbrough did, becoming the face of the program and accepting the challenge to lead it too.
“To try to follow in his footsteps would have been a tough thing to do, he’s Ben,” Scott said. “Just to give that up, I’m not going to lie, it’s a tough thing.
“(Brey) asked me probably the toughest question in our conversation, he asked me what are the negatives of coming back. I told him honestly there was no negatives, this is the safety bubble. Everything here is good. Coming back and getting better in this light would have been a great. I think I just feel like I can do that somewhere else.”
Scott will graduate this month with a degree in history and computer applications, which draws a distinction from other NBA early entrants under Brey. Chris Thomas, Luke Harangody and Torin Francis all needed to return to graduate. Troy Murphy bolted but was a virtual lock for the lottery.
Scott said he expects to be drafted although few prognosticators agree considering he wasn’t listed among ESPN’s Top 100 draft prospects over the weekend. Brey challenged Scott to envision what life could be like playing in Europe or the NBDL. That’s a risk Scott appears willing to take on.
“The feedback really pushed me. Having that positive feedback and having those guys come up to me and say you really have a chance to make it,” Scott said. “No guarantees like coach said, but that feedback gave me a good edge I do anticipate (being drafted). I’m going to work my tail off to work up to that. If that doesn’t happen we have to go do a different road.”
Scott worked out in New Jersey last weekend and Brey said the reaction from general manager Billy King was positive. Brey also said the Miami Heat have shown recent interest. And whether Scott gets drafted or not, Notre Dame’s head coach believes skipping a potential fifth year is the right choice.
“It’s a good decision because it’s his decision,” Brey said. “At the end of the day, we get pretty sharp guys here at Notre Dame. Especially after four years and you’re 22-years old, it’s time to be a man and make a decision. He made a decision.”