Oct. 11, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – On a team dominated by new arrivals, Leah Scott is hoping to have two seasons – or more – to make an impact for and with Marshall women’s basketball.
Coach Matt Daniel’s second Thundering Herd roster has 10 newcomers, and the 6-foot Scott stands out. It’s not often someone makes an All-America squad – even second team – while coming off the bench.
That’s what the versatile Scott did last season at Iowa Western Community College, averaging 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assist per game. Scott, from Westland, Mich., was an NJCAA All-America second team selection as a sixth man.
“I didn’t know you could do that,” Scott said prior to a Marshall practice earlier this week. “I thought you maybe had to start to be picked. I’m pretty proud of that. It shows if you work hard and do what you can with your opportunity, you can make it.”
Scott and her 2013-14 teammates will have their public debut Thursday night at Cam Henderson Center, when the Marshall men’s and women’s teams stage their Green & White night, a pair of skill displays and intrasquad scrimmages beginning at 5:30.
“Leah is a JUCO All-American that we are happy to have in our family,” Daniel said. “We believe she can not only have an impact on our program, but on our league as well.”
Scott will play this season as a Herd junior, although she said and Daniel and her are hoping the player can get another season of eligibility through an appeal to the NCAA.
She previously had signed and played at Central Michigan in the 2011-12 season, but exited the Chippewas’ program under personal duress.
“My dad (AAU and high school coach Dwayne Scott) had a stroke and no one told me about it at first,” Scott said. “When I found out, I just let my grades go and went home to be with him.”
Her father has recovered – he’s coaching at Inkster (Mich.) Community College -- and Scott and Daniel are hoping the player can gain back a year after she played only 26 minutes in three games at Central Michigan before getting back on the floor at Iowa Western, which was 25-6 and a regional finalist last season.
“The big difference at this level is there is a lot more competition,” Scott said. “There are a lot of new girls here and everyone wants to play. Girls at this level are faster and stronger.
“Junior college was a good experience for me because it helped me mature and because I didn’t play a year of college basketball when I got there, I was real serious about the opportunity – and I don’t think everyone else took it as serious as I did.”
And because she was an academic qualifier out of high school, she was able to leave JUCO ball after only one season. Besides Marshall, many of her recruiting suitors were programs she will play against this season, in Conference USA.
“I’m 6-foot and I can play every position on the floor except the 5 (post),” Scott said. “Because I’m tall and versatile, Coach Daniel told me I won’t have just one position. It’s interchangeable and I need to learn all of the plays at every spot because we may get a mismatch where I have to go play a 4. I imagine I’ll be a 2 or 3 most of the time. During practice, I play 2 and 3. It was the same in junior college.
“In high school, I was a point guard all four years. I think that helps me now, because I’m used to seeing the whole floor, and I like being versatile. The more you can do, the better it is for you and the team – and the harder it is to guard me, because I’ll be anywhere on the floor.”
Scott played against two other Herd newcomers in junior college – point guard AJ Johnson (Northeast CC) and guard-forward Aja Sorrells (Hutchinson CC). Otherwise, it’s been a preseason of introductions for the Herd, which returns only six players from last season 9-21 team.
She became curious when Daniel and MU assistant coach Tony Kemper started showing up at IWCC games.
“I decided to come to Marshall because I felt a really good relationship with Coach Daniel and Coach Kemper,” Scott said. “I always saw them at my games and I’d ask my junior college coach (Jim Turgeon), ‘Who are they? I always see them.’
“I just fell in love with what they had to say, how they wanted to build the program. The first thing about a school is you have to have a good relationship with the coaches.”
And with the Herd having so many new faces in a season of construction, many among the Herd felt their opportunity to contribute might come quicker than in some other options.
“I just thought of it as having an opportunity to play with different girls,” Scott said. “I knew the two JUCO girls because we played against them, but it’s a lot of girls here.
“I’m just going to work hard and if I get the spot, I earned it, and if I don’t get the spot, I’ll still work hard because I learned in junior college you don’t have to start to get (All-America).
“Marshall didn’t have a good record last year, but Coach Daniel has brought in a lot of good players now, and I feel like we’re going in the right direction. If we all work hard, we can make a name for Marshall. Coach Daniel really wants us to get out there be more than what was here last year … and we rarely talk about the past, so maybe we can get it rolling.”
She said the Herd got the kind of eye-opener and motivation to fuel the fire earlier this week, when C-USA coaches picked Marshall to finish 16th (last) in the conference race after a finish in the cellar (12th then) last season.
“All of us, we saw that on Twitter,” Scott said. “We were a little upset at that. We were like, ‘Dang, we were last on the list.’ We all were talking about it and saying we’ve got to change that this year, just got to work hard, push one another and win some games.
“It only makes us more motivated to get started, to get into the top 10 or even the top five.”