Dennis Scott has seen the enemy and it is a potato chip.
It will be a difficult battle, but defeating this crispy, crunchy, greasy foe could prove crucial to whether Scott meets the lofty expectations he brought to Georgia Tech.
Scott and the basketball Yellow Jackets will be in Cole Field House Monday night at 9 to face Maryland in an important Atlantic Coast Conference game. It also will be something of a homecoming for Scott, who is originally from Hagerstown, Md., and graduated last year from Flint Hill in Oakton.
When Scott went to Atlanta last fall to enroll as a freshman at Tech, he was considered one of the nation's best high school players. He also brought a few extra pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame, with the needle on the scale closer to 300 than 200.
"I think he's handled it all very well," Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said. "The process started with the publicity he got as a senior in high school. There was the controversy in not making the SAT and then he did a great job working his tail off and did pass it. I told him not to play after his season was over, to just forget basketball and put all his energy into academics. He was above average in the ACT and passed the SAT.
"But in not playing, he put on weight, and when he went into the Olympic Festival over the summer, he got a touch of criticism. But he is a great kid. And like any other freshman he needs to learn that it's a whole new ball game. You just can't step in and take over."
The "controversy" concerning the SAT stemmed from the fact that Scott had to take the test several times before he made a score high enough to satisfy the requirements of Proposition 48.
"I was nervous the first time," Scott said. "But then I passed it. I got a 700-something and 24 on the ACT."
As for the weight, Scott said he is about 230, having lost 25 pounds.
"During the summer, I would play ball and with nothing to do the next day, I might go out to a party," Scott said. "I'd come home at 1 or 2 in the morning and eat a heavy meal and go to sleep on it. My cousin has a beach house and I was there every other weekend. Next thing I know, I'm 20 or 25 pounds overweight."
The cure was simple. No Jane Fonda. No Nutri-systems.
"It wasn't like salads only," Scott said. "I practiced hard and did a little extra running. No special diet plan. Just three meals a day, and cut out the chips late at night."
Scott recognized that there was the potential for resentment of him by Tech teammates.
"That's one thing which got off to a good start," Scott said. "The players were behind me 100 percent. I thought there might be some conflict because of my reputation, but it's been no problem."
Senior forward Duane Ferrell agreed, saying, "We're too close as a team for that to happen. He got a reputation in high school, but the way I look at it, you get what you deserve."
"It didn't bother me," said Tom Hammonds, Tech's 6-9 junior forward, "and I don't think it bothered anybody else on the team. Dennis keeps things loose. He knows when it's time to joke, but he also knows when it's time to play."
And if there is any conflict, Scott's jump shot makes up for any problem. Scott started the year shooting very well from the outside, but in the last few games he hit a slump. In losses to Duke and North Carolina, Scott shot four of 17 from three-point range. Then Saturday, against De Paul, Scott was two of eight through 39 minutes 59 seconds. But after having missed a three-pointer with five seconds left, Scott tossed in a 24-footer at the buzzer to lift the Yellow Jackets (15-6) to a 71-70 victory.
"He plays so cool," said LSU Coach Dale Brown, whose team lost to Georgia Tech, 87-70. "Beyond the fact that he can shoot from the planet Pluto and not blink an eye, he seems to have great court awareness and doesn't appear to be selfish."
Cremins said in the coming years he might adjust his offense "a little" to get Scott more shots. But for now, the Tech offense is still geared to going inside to Hammonds and Ferrell.
"They are not looking to create shots for him," Auburn Coach Sonny Smith said. "He'll take what comes out of that offense."
Though Scott will use his lower body strength to post up occasionally, most of his shots come when the ball is passed out from the post or swung around the outside.
"When I had three or four guys hanging on me last year, I couldn't kick it out and have that guy hit the shot," Hammonds said. "With Dennis, it's bombs away."
Because Scott is less likely to drive around a defender, pressure seems to be the preferred way of stopping him.
"Quickness is not his game," Virginia assistant coach Dave Odom said. "If he's in the corner or wing, you want to pressure him so he has to turn his back to the offense."
Scott, scoring 14.1 points a game, is also a good passer, averaging 4.1 assists. One aspect that could be improved is his defense.
"All players develop at different times and in different ways," North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano said. "Offensively, Dennis Scott is ahead of the game. What he does well for Georgia Tech is provide an outside offensive threat. Like a lot of college players, he has areas of his game that he has to work on and defense is one area."
Coaches have talked about Scott having the maturity of a veteran. Scott attributes that to his mother, Elizabeth, a nurse, who alone raised him since he was 8.
"There was no father figure in our house, and I think I grew up faster," Scott said. "She had another job when I was 10 or 11, so she would have to leave on the weekends and I would be by myself. You learn to do things on your own, which prepares you for college and for later life."
Cremins rarely plays more than seven players in a close game, so he has needed Scott from the start. But Cremins might wish the whole process could go a bit slower.
"Dennis is only a freshman and I want him to bide his time," Cremins said. "He has a lot to learn. I'd like to see him stay trim. I want him to continue to work on that and be as humble as possible. If he does that, he should be a great player."
Twice this year Scott has scored 28 points. The first was in November, when he shredded Florida's zone defense, though the Gators won, 80-69.
"I was very impressed," said Florida Coach Norm Sloan. "There's a lot of pressure on him. Sometimes guys lose some desire when they get so much attention so early. It's a matter of whether Dennis can remain highly motivated and remain hungry."