It is those moments when Shannon Scott blows past an opposing defender in the blink of an eye that it is most evident the game is slowing down for him.
His game is built for speed, and early in his sophomore year Scott is learning that he shouldn’t contain it.
That lesson it took Scott a year to grasp, but the course of realizing that wasn’t easy. Playing in a backup role for the first time in his life as a freshman last season, he saw Aaron Craft epitomize the way coach Thad Matta likes the game to be played – with great defense and a keen appreciation for taking care of the basketball.
Scott has the potential to do both things at the highest level of college basketball, but he earned Matta’s attention while becoming one of the best prep point guards in the country by throwing his inhibitions to the wind and playing with his instincts.
But Scott has since realized that he doesn’t have to be Craft, a big hurdle that had to be overcome. Once it was cleared, Scott has inched toward becoming a more complete basketball player that does the things Matta wants without sacrificing his personal style.
“I was probably thinking about not turning the ball over too much,” Scott said, reflecting on his freshman season when he was noticeably overwhelmed at times during playing time. “I was trying to make sure every (pass I made) was a perfect pass. Now, I’m just being free and letting it go.”
What you see out of Scott now is a player that isn’t too small for even the biggest stage, one that will push the ball in transition as quick as anyone in the country and never shy away from taking a crucial shot if the opportunity presents itself.
And while he’s still coming off the bench and is behind Craft on the depth chart, Scott has badgered the opposition on defense and pushed Ohio State’s tempo on offense without turning the ball over.
“We wanted Shannon to be who he was from the first time we saw him play,” Matta said. “I wanted Shannon to be a guy that exploited his quickness, speed and athleticism. I think the biggest thing is that he’s really come to grips with who he is and what this basketball team needs.”
It has made for an exciting brand of basketball, exemplified by those instances where Scott grabbed loose balls on the defense end, sprinted up the floor faster than the other team can keep up, all before finding an open shooter or taking the ball to the rim himself.
Through Ohio State’s first eight games, Scott has turned the ball over only eight times while averaging 19.9 minutes per game. His 36 assists have given him 4.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is No. 19 nationally.
With Scott’s emergence as a reliable ball handler – not just a player that can help OSU play at a faster rate – Matta has taken Craft off the ball more and played both point guards at the same time.
That lineup should be a regular fixture in Ohio State’s repertoire this season, and was one that was utilized more at the end of last year as the Buckeyes went on their postseason run that culminated in Matta’s second Final Four berth in eight years with the program.
“He appears to be a lot more comfortable and confident in what he’s doing out there, which is awesome,” Matta said. “I have said this along: I love the way he’s playing right now and I think he’s going to continue to play at this level and get better as well.”
Scott’s progression could take even another step forward this season if he becomes more consistent with his shot. Though he’s shooting 46.3 percent from the floor (19-for-41), Scott is averaging only 6.8 points per game and has made a pattern of missing on open looks he achieved with his quickness.
But Scott said those instances aren’t what he expects to be the trend, and that is evident in the way he’s noticed opposing teams defending him as opposed to last year.
The sophomore – confident as ever – has more expectations for the way he’ll play as the season progresses.
“I think my ability to score a little bit more this year is helping me,” he said. “The defenses are actually coming closer to me now, so I’m able to make the easy pass and dish it off to my teammates. I feel like I should be making more (shots), but I’m not going to be worried about it. They’re going to start falling.”
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