Southern's summer girls' basketball team has no trouble relating to Coach Dayna Scott, one of the county's top players in the 1980s. Duplicating her success will be tougher.
Scott is in her first season coaching summer league basketball, in which former players, parents and others take the place of high school coaches, who are not allowed to participate in off-season training. But while Scott has long been a legend for her accomplishments on the court, she has been building a reputation as a coach and mentor for only a few months.
Scott, now 38, led Southern to three consecutive state titles beginning in 1983, scoring more than 2,000 points in four years. She played two seasons of college basketball at George Mason University and Fayetteville State University before leaving school to care for her son.
"Dayna is a very gifted player," said Southern Coach Linda Kilpatrick, who has been coaching the Bulldogs for 30 years. "Always has been."
A young Southern team reached the 2A South semifinal last winter, falling to Potomac, 73-65, in a game considered far closer than expected. There was only one senior on the squad, which finished 15-9.
During the season, Scott acted as a volunteer with the team, informally taking junior point guard Brittany Wiseman under her wing and pointing out ways Wiseman could better run the offense in fast breaks and in half-court sets. Kilpatrick said Wiseman's assist-to-turnover ratio improved during that time.
Scott also built a relationship with senior post player Sarah Ziegler, trying to rekindle Ziegler's dream of playing in the WNBA. Under Scott's guidance, Ziegler become tougher, mentally and physically. In the second summer game of the season, Ziegler scored 18 points against South River with determined play in the paint.
"She taught me that in my mind I can only be number one," Ziegler said. "I can be number one anytime I want to be. Nobody can stop me. Especially not players and especially not referees: I tend to get called for fouls since I'm the biggest body [on the court]."
Scott's goal this summer is to build her players' self-confidence through a reserved coaching style. She can be found seated at the end of the bench, hunched over papers, digesting the flow of the game.
"It seems to me that when you yell at [the players], they get scared," Scott said. "Scared to make a mistake."
In that sense, Scott differs from Kilpatrick, who has five state titles and a more fiery demeanor.
"Coach Kil will put you out in the middle of the court and tell you about yourself," Ziegler said. "Dayna will pull you off to the side."
"Everybody has their own style," Kilpatrick said. "That's not her nature [to yell]. You go with what works for you."
Southern entered the week 2-2 with five games remaining before the championship.
For most teams, the focus of summer ball is not the title, but the chance to play together and stay in shape.
"You just want them to be out there playing a little during the summer," Kilpatrick said before the season started. "Coaches see the importance of keeping your team playing during the summer."
For Scott, who also coaches a men's team in the Annapolis league, the summer is a chance to stay involved in players' development while honing her own coaching skills, with the idea of some day coaching at the high school level.
"I would love to do that," she said.