For the first time in his coaching career, Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli will face his alma mater. The Massachusetts native enrolled at Boston University as a walk-on point guard, with little expectations but the desire to play college basketball. He played sparingly in four seasons there, but used his experience as a launching pad into his first postgraduate profession.
“Can I tell you what his coach called him?’ Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Nah I can’t do that. Not in front of the camera. Probably the same kind of coach he is. Tough-minded, works hard every day, great energy, probably a great teammate. He didn’t go there on scholarship, but made the team. Can you imagine what he was like back then, the energy level he had then compared to how he still has it today?”
The past three games have been a time portal of sorts for Spinelli. First the Terrapins beat Boston College, when plenty of his friends and family in attendance. Then they topped Florida Atlantic, whose coach Mike Jarvis coached Spinelli with the Terriers. Then, of course, on Saturday afternoon, Spinelli will coach against Boston University.
How did your basketball career at Boston University unfold?
Basketball-wise, for me, I got the opportunity to walk-on there, I had a green shirt, black sneakers on and you know how it is, you get there as a walk-on, nobody lets you play in the pickup games, you have to wait your turn. At some point, I had the opportunity to crack in and show I belonged.
Coach Jarvis recognized it. My freshman year, second semester, I averaged about 10 minutes a game. I was that guy who assumed that point guard role of defending, making people better, shooting open shots, then I was awarded a scholarship from there, had a chance to contribute in a lot of ways to helping the team win.
My junior year, in January, I had major knee surgery where I blew out my knee, so I was out the rest of the year obviously. I played three years, the knee injury prevented me from playing that last year. It was a great four years there, three which I played. From that standpoint, getting into coaching gives you…you draw on your college experience quite a bit as a player, the lessons you learned from playing for a guy like Coach Jarvis. I think that’s what molds you.
Why did you decide to walk on at BU as opposed to trying to get a scholarship at a lower level?
I was probably a guy who was caught between…I went to prep school for a year, Maine Central, I was caught between some Division I schools that we relooking at me and some Division II schools. For me personally, academically I got into Boston University on my academics. One of my teammates at the prep school was going there, and I had a good relationship with him. I said I’ve got the option to go to a very good academic school and play with an ex-teammate of yours, or maybe go to a smaller Division I program or even a Division II school. It worked out well for me in every aspect.
Do you remember the moment when you were awarded a scholarship?
Yeah you know what, it was right after my freshman year. Coach Jarvis had called me in and said hey, I’m going to put you on scholarship, we’re going to start paying for your school and your education. That’s something you never forget. It didn’t change my mentality or my passion or the game. There’s something to be said about walk-ons, guys who go to school for the love of the game. Their work ethic and their passion are the two things that carry them through, not necessarily the financial aid award.
When those walk-ons get out of college, a lot of those end up going onto do big things just because of the work ethic that they maintained or established. Not to belittle the scholarship side of it, because I ended up being a scholarship player, but a walk-on is doing it a lot more for the love of the game than he did the financial reward.