Miami’s on a spectacular journey, one that doesn’t figure to end anytime soon for a second-seeded basketball team that’s emerged out of nowhere as a team that began the season unranked.
Durand Scott’s travels began long ago with much more renown.
That their paths intersected and the Hurricanes find themselves in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008 is anything but coincidental.
Scott may be regarded as Miami’s other guard, given explosive point guard Shane Larkin’s growing reputation, but not by Pacific, the Hurricanes’ latest victim.
It’s hard to imagine a more complete player than Scott, who when he wasn’t wowing scouts as the ACC’s defensive player of the year was throwing down a career-best 32 points on North Carolina State in the league tournament or yanking down a season-best 12 rebounds against Charlotte.
Little wonder the senior guard scored a game-high 21 points to direct Miami’s 78-49 yawner over 15th-seeded Pacific in Friday’s second round at the Erwin Center to advance to Sunday’s game against Illinois.
Scott arrived in Miami, fresh off a brilliant prep career in the Bronx where his legendary Rice High School team won two state championships and his AAU team made off with four city championships. Then-Miami head coach Frank Haith lured him south and allowed him to showcase his skills as a defensive-minded point guard.
But when Larkin showed up on the Hurricanes’ doorstep after a short time at DePaul, Scott remained true to his humble nature and willingly shifted to shooting guard. He even took on a new No. 1 jersey, signifying a fresh start because he was “heart-broken” over Haith’s departure in 2011 and briefly considered a transfer.
He couldn’t be happier now.
“If I have to move to the center position, that’d be fine,” Scott said. “I just like winning.”
So does Jim Larranaga, Miami’s grandfatherly, second-year head coach who coincidentally went to the same middle school as Scott.
Upon Haith’s exit to Missouri, some wondered if Scott’s next move would be not to center but to another of the dozens of schools that recruited this versatile 6-5 guard who has too often been a reluctant shooter despite incredibly sinking 26 of 29 3-point tries as a prep senior. Scott did have to sit out six games over two seasons as part of the NCAA investigation that has dogged Miami as well as Haith, but there’s no bitterness in this son of a nurse and a late father who was a truck driver.
Scott hasn’t patterned his game after one hero, but an assortment. He watched Russell Westbrook’s ease in coming off screens, copied Chris Douglas-Roberts’ floaters in the lane and has tried to duplicate Michael Jordan’s impact on a game in ways beyond scoring. “I like a lot of people,” he said.
And a lot of folks liked him. Scott ultimately chose Miami over four other schools including UCLA and UConn because it seemed like a perfect fit.
“He was a point guard when we first arrived, and he is still a point guard,” Larranaga said. “But we have tried to get him to be a little bit more versatile with his scoring ability.”
Yeah, I’d say the coaching staff was smart to encourage a few more shots. Scott responded in a big way Friday and hit five 3-pointers — for the second time in his last three games — to help pace the Hurricanes to a remarkably routine blowout of a Pacific team that, yes, would have had trouble hitting the ocean from a cruise liner. Thanks to a suffocating defense from Scott and his teammates, the Tigers ended their season with a 33 percent accuracy from the field.
If Scott helped put the Tigers to sleep, it shouldn’t come as a surprise since he’s had a sleeping disorder of his own and told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel recently that he visited a doctor because of the malady that once left him asleep for an entire day.
When Larkin was dishing the ball to Scott on the perimeter Friday, he’d throw up three fingers even before Scott would launch. And why not? In the Canes’ practice drill where Coach L would require shooters to make 50 in a five-minute span to be rewarded with the green light in games, Scott complies.
“Durand has made as many as 80,” Coach L said. “And he still would pass up on shots.”
Scott wouldn’t have passed up this opportunity for history at a Miami program that has never advanced past the Sweet 16 in its history.
“You’d think they’d all be awestruck,” said associate athletic director Chris Freet. “But they’re not doing back flips and high fives and crazy celebrations. They’re just living in the moment.”