The first thing former Virginia star Mike Scott mentions when he talks about preparing for the 2012 NBA draft is criss-crossing the country in recent months, the sort of rigorous travel that he describes as “going to sleep in Portland, waking up in Atlanta the next day.”
But he understands it’s necessary for a prospect considered to be on the fringe of the first round when the 2012 NBA draft gets underway Thursday night in New York. And make no mistake, despite the humble demeanor that defined a senior season in which Scott returned from a serious ankle injury to earn ACC player of the year honors, the first round is where he’d like to see his name called.
“Of course it matters with that guaranteed contract [given to first-round draft picks], and it shows the respect you have from a team that takes you up there with the top 30 players in the draft,” Scott said Tuesday during a pre-draft conference call. “I’ll just be grateful for my name to be called, whether it’s first or second round, but I know I belong in the first round.”
There is little doubt, however, that on Thursday Scott will become the first Virginia player coached by Tony Bennett, and the first Cavaliers player since guard Sean Singletary was picked in the second round by the Sacramento Kings in 2008, to be selected in the NBA draft.
Coming off a stellar senior campaign that saw him average 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game despite playing in Bennett’s methodical offense, Scott feels he “took a lot of people by surprise” on the workout circuit, and according to the various mock drafts out there, his stock has steadily risen of late. The only workout that didn’t go well, Scott said, was his first one with the Los Angeles Lakers when he was nervous and tried to force the issue too much.
Though at 24, Scott is the oldest player in this year’s draft, scouts have been impressed with how he added new facets to his game every year in Charlottesville. And while the popular notion amongst some teams is that younger players have more upside and room to grow, “I feel like I have a lot more to improve,” Scott said.
“I just tell [teams about] the maturation process I went through, how I was immature coming into college and I matured over time.”
More than anything, it’s Scott’s multi-dimensional game that has some enamored with him. Already armed with a reliable outside jumper and an array of moves with his back to the basket, the 6-8 Scott has spent the weeks leading up to the draft improving his perimeter game, working out with guards like Syracuse’s Dion Waiters, Xavier’s Tu Holloway, Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson and Villanova’s Maalik Wayns in Las Vegas earlier this spring.
He also had to watch as NBA teams “poked and probed and stretched” the surgically repaired ankle that cost him most of the 2010-11 season during the pre-draft combine in Chicago last month. All the X-rays and MRIs showed no issues, so Scott will be able to watch the draft with his family and friends in his home town of Chesapeake, Va. without any health-related concerns.
As for what sort of player his new team will be getting, Scott made it clear his prolific senior season, and strong pre-draft showing, are only the start of an impact career at the professional level.
“Guarding players smaller and quicker than me, that’s what I need to continue to do,” Scott said. “But I honestly think my bread and butter is at the four [power forward] and I can just do some three [small forward] stuff. I’ll be a mismatch.”