I've spent the morning reading a bit about Bryson Scott's approach to the Junior/Senior Indiana All-Star games...and have liked what I've been learning.
On the court, Scott plays with reckless abandon, a short memory and complete disregard for his own well-being...but off the court, he seems to be very aware of the past and is always keeping score. These two parts of Scott's persona seem to align well and form a hard-nosed, tough-as-iron, uber-driven player that is defined by a constant pursuit to prove people wrong and silence critics. In his effort to let his play speak for itself, he's earned a name for himself as a guy that never stops competing.
I'll go a step further- some opponents of Scott already don't like the guy all that much...and opposing fans of the teams he's played on seem to hate him. We've been down this road before, Boilers...And even before he's officially on campus as a student athlete, I can tell you that this sounds like a marriage made in heaven.
Finesse and silky-smooth play is fun to watch...but finesse can fail a player when the nicks and cuts of a long B1G season mount. But, grit seems to become deeper-ingrained as the games get bigger and a player's will is tested. Scott has been testing his own will, quite vigorously, for years...training himself to fight through pain like he fights through picks and using his temper as a bit of fuel to his competitive fire.
It's tough to compare a player to a legend (or two) before he's put on a uniform...and it's something that I hardly ever get into the practice of doing. BUT, I'm not talking about scoring or the amount of games a guy will win...I'm talking about competing, annoying the competition and having a motor that doesn't quit. So in this case, I feel pretty good about making these comparisons.
Brian Cardinal made everyone mad who wasn't a Boilermaker...if you don't know this, you were born and raised in the gold and black. Nearly everything he did was designed to get under the skin of opponents...but he always did it with a bit of a grin; I think that grated on them even more. He'd grab the ball out of his opponent's hands after the whistle, dive for anything that was on the ground, look frantic and unathletic one second, and rain a three with someone in his face the next. But more than any of this, he was driven...and his hard work separated him from the competition.
Chris Kramer stuck his nose into every conflict that was on the court...that earned him at least two broken noses while at Purdue. He'd swim to loose balls, rip the rock away from bigger players, be in the opposing PG's jersey (and in his nightmares)...and on offense, he'd facilitate and get everyone involved. He'd lull opposing defenses to sleep as if to say, "nothing to worry about here, I'm just going to pass it..." Then when the blinked, he'd drive around a few of them and flush it in their face. He wasn't as large as Cardinal, but he was a tremendous athlete...and instead of developing his scoring ability, he worked, and grinded on defense and abusing his body as he prepared for battle.
The will that both of these guys had is their commonality...the fact that IU fans hated them with a passion made us love them even more...Everyone in the conference thought their careers were seven or eight seasons long because they played right away, and logged tons of minutes in crunch time. Keady and Painter were forced to play them because they made everyone better...and their attitude and approach to the game was something that every team would love to have, but few do.
That's why Scott's arrival is crucial to Purdue right now.
Purdue's identity was hazy at best last year. Defense didn't create offense...in fact, defense was no where to be found at times last year. I said that after IU shellacked them, they'd be ready to play IU the second time simply for competition's sake. Sure, IU was drastically more talented, but I thought Purdue would have a stronger will than they showed. As a team, last year's group didn't seem to know how to compete for much of the year...that was the saddest, most bitter thing to accept as a fan who's become accustomed to watching teams always fight and compete.
While Scott isn't big, he's athletic, he's mean, he's stubborn and he's HUGE on fight. Players like Hammons need to be kicked in the ass to get them to play like the world-beaters they are...and players like RayDay need other bulldogs come along side them; Scott might be that bulldog.
Bryson Scott is probably sick and tired of hearing about the guys that went to IU and Michigan and anywhere else really...has grown tired and annoyed at the Indy Star telling him that he wasn't close to being the best player in the state...but I'd bet he listens each and every time words like that are uttered, and sees them as another challenge that he'll meet.
Here's to critics squawking in the direction of B-Scott for the next four years...and Scott silencing them again and again.
Bryson Scott arrives on campus on June 17.