By Norm Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-4642
10:17 AM AKDT, June 27, 2012
With Hall of Famer Larry Bird sitting on one side of the court, and his former Boston Celtics teammate Danny Ainge sitting on the other side, Mike Scott realized he was in the presence of basketball royalty at one of his 17 workouts leading up to the National Basketball Association draft.
Of course, the fact Bird was at the workout scouting for the Indiana Pacers, who employed Bird as their president of basketball operations before he resigned Wednesday, and Ainge was seeking talent in the same role with the Celtics wasn't lost on Scott. It's the kind of attention Scott, a 6-foot-8, 241-pound forward from Chesapeake, has always wanted.
After a college career at Virginia that included a redshirted 2010-11 season due to ankle surgery that cost him all but 10 games, and a first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference effort last season, Scott will find out Thursday night if he turned the heads of the right people in the NBA.
"I think I took a lot of people by surprise," said Scott, who averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season on his way to becoming the first U.Va. player to earn first team All-ACC honors since Sean Singletary made it to the team three consecutive times from 2006-08. "I think I did well in the combine. I think did well in all the workouts."
Well, almost every workout. Scott admits having big time nerves at his first workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he quickly got a feel for the process, and the hectic schedule his pre-draft work often entailed.
"I've been going to sleep in Portland and waking up in Atlanta the next day," said Scott, who worked out for 15 teams and participated in two combines.
Along the way, he feels he successfully navigated every question asked of him by personnel from NBA teams in pre-draft interviews, including the most bizarre question – what's the weirdest thing he's ever done?
"I didn't know how to answer that," said Scott, who will watch the draft in Chesapeake at home with friends and family. "I was like, 'What's weird to you?'"
Most draft pundits have him projected as a mid-second round selection, but he's still not exactly a sure thing to even get drafted. There are questions surrounding his age – he'll be 24 next month, which is ancient for an NBA rookie these days – and if he has a true position in the NBA.
"I think I still have a lot more to improve with my ball-handling, shooting off the move and guarding the perimeter," Scott said. "Some teams will look at it as, 'How much potential does he have?'"
Scott said at a workout in Las Vegas he started out working at power forward, but got moved to the wing when scouts realized he could put the ball on the floor a little, pass and shoot, according to Scott.
"I think he has a good chance to get drafted, but the second half of the second round –if that's where he does end up – is so unpredictable," said Scott Howard-Cooper, a draft analyst for the NBA.com website. "No guarantees, in other words. The good news is he will get a chance to make the NBA no matter what. It may mean starting the climb as an undrafted free agent, but he definitely gets offers for summer league and also training camp. He's too good to slip through the cracks."
If Scott gets drafted, he'll be the first U.Va. player to be chosen in coach Tony Bennett's three seasons in Charlottesville. The last U.Va. player to be drafted was Singletary in '09, and the last U.Va. player to be taken in the first round was Cory Alexander in 1995.
One aspect of Scott's draft readiness that has passed all tests has been the stability of his left ankle. Despite having his ankle poked and prodded by teams, a pre-draft MRI revealed no lingering issues from the arthroscopic surgery and bone spur surgery he had in Jan. 2011.
Though he has jumped at most opportunities to perform in front of NBA types, he bypassed an invitation in April to play at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. It wasn't a stop he deemed necessary.
"I didn't feel that I really needed to (be at the PIT)," Scott said. "I've proven myself. I think everyone else has seen that in (a mini-combine in) Minnesota and (the pre-draft combine in) Chicago.
"I'll just be grateful for my name to be called, whether it's first or second round. Of course, I know I deserve the first round."