BOGACZYK: Scott Seeks Strong Finish to Herd Career
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 11, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the 46-year history of women’s basketball at Marshall, only seven players have scored more points in a season than Leah Scott did in 2014-15.
In her upcoming senior season, Scott intends to do even better – but not just at the offensive end of the floor.
In Coach Matt Daniel’s rising program, Scott is one of only two seniors on a 16-player roster that includes 10 players who will be donning a Herd uniform for the first time. The 6-foot forward from Detroit also is the first Marshall player to receive Preseason All-Conference USA honors since senior post player Tynikki Crook – another Detroiter -- in 2010-11.
Scott averaged a team-leading 15.4 points per game last season (494 points) for a 17-15 club that posted a winning record after 9-21 and 11-20 seasons in Daniel’s first two MU seasons. The Herd went to the Women’s Basketball Invitational quarterfinals, the first postseason bid for the program since an NCAA Tournament trip in 1997.
The Herd might have had a shot at a better finish, but dropped five of the last six games after three-year starting point guard Norrisha Victrum tore her right ACL and needed surgery. Victrum is back as Scott’s only fellow senior.
But the biggest thing that may have happened to Scott last season came in early February, with about one month left in the regular season. She learned that Marshall’s appeal for an extra year of eligibility for her had been granted, replacing the abbreviated 2011-12 season she had at Central Michigan (26 minutes in three games) prior to her father suffering a stroke.
Now, Scott – an All-C-USA second team pick following last season -- intends to make the most of her final year … again.
“What I learned last season is I can be a versatile player,” Scott said. “I learned I can play multiple positions and can be a good team defensive player. I learned I can help my team out in more ways than just scoring on the offensive end, but I can do things on the defensive end to help, too.”
Scott came to the Herd in 2013-14 from Iowa Western Community College, where she enrolled after leaving Central Michigan. At the time, Daniel was looking for added maturity in the second year of his program, and Scott was among several JUCOs the Herd coach added.
“Leah has learned so much in her time here,” Daniel said. “You can tell from the way she walks into the gym. We have fans and teachers tell us all of the time the joy on her face spills over into them.
“Once she leaves us, I expect that she will handle herself as she does now, rather than how she did when she got to us. I think she will be able to handle either success or adversity with the same grin, taking it all in stride. She understands now -- more than ever -- that individual success will come with the team’s success.”
If Scott repeats her offensive season of a year ago, she will leave Marshall among the school’s top six career scorers … in only three years. But she insists there will be more to it than making shots.
“What I need this season is to be more vocal and more of a leader,” said Scott, who averaged 6.6 assists and handed out a team-leading 91 assists last season. “I’m a senior, and we have a lot of freshmen and newcomers to the team. It’s about showing them the right way to do things so that when I leave after this season, they know how to take things and move forward.
“The difference between my first two years and this team is we definitely have more players. They’re almost a lot of the same in that two years ago, we had a bunch of new players, including me, and then last season we had new players, too.
“So, we’re still trying to learn the system and we all have to come together. It’s just a matter of time, working hard in practice. We’re better.”
After being picked to finish last in the Conference USA preseason poll for four straight seasons, the Herd was forecast for 10th place in the 14-team league in 2015-16. Scott said the poll can be a take-it or leave-it situation.
“It’s better, but I think it’s still kind of a … we’re just going to take it as something to still motivate us, go with it, and try to be a better team,” she said. “People see we have improved, and we can embrace the 10th because we’re not 14th, so four spots up is not too bad.”
Scott gained her undergraduate degree in health professions this spring, and is taking classes toward a minor in sports marketing. She called her selection to the eight-player all-league preseason team a positive for the program.
“It’s good, most definitely, but I feel like I have even more pressure on my shoulders,” Scott said. “It’s not just that, but it’s about just being able to embrace this last year and do what I know I can do.”
She called the wait to see if she would get an additional year of eligibility “nerve-wracking, the wait until a little bit before the end of the season.” Now, she said she is settled and ready to play a final Herd season.
“We have more depth this year and I think we have a lot of versatile players,” Scott said. “We have a lot more guards than we had last year and two years ago, and that will help us push the tempo, run on teams the way Coach Daniel likes to do.
“We have a lot more outside shooters, too, so our perimeter game should improve. We’ll be more about the fast break now and that’s what he wants and with more players, we can play a deeper rotation and get rest.
“As for me, I feel like I’ve got the offensive part down. Now, I’ve got to put a little more emphasis into defense, play more pressure, get more steals and maybe try to get a few blocks in there. Defense is kind of challenging because you use a lot of energy on the offensive end and then you come back down and have to try to do the same on defense.
“It was a matter of me focusing -- my main focus was getting in really good shape this year – and realizing I had to play better defense, and I might be guarding the best player on the opposing team. I needed to be in tip-top shape.”
Daniel said Scott should be up to the challenge.
“I believe Leah will be able to teach our very young team even in the most adverse situations, because she has had to endure so much herself,” the fourth-year Herd coach said. “I sure am glad she wears kelly green.”