For many high school basketball players all over the country, a college scholarship is the ultimate goal, so when Tiger freshman guard Dante Scott turned down several scholarship offers to walk-on at Memphis it was a decision that is far from the norm in college basketball.
He was a three-star recruit according to 247Sports, and had scholarship offers from several perennial mid-major powers including George Mason, UMass and Middle Tennessee State before eventually taking his one offer from a power five conference school — Mississippi State. But that didn’t work out, and instead of taking a full ride to one of those smaller schools Scott made the difficult decision to pay his own way at Memphis.
“It was very difficult, but I mean I just stick with it and try and stay positive throughout the whole thing,” Scott said. “Coach (Josh) Pastner supports me and we talked, and you know sometimes you can think about what you could’ve done, but I just prayed, really. I believe that God’s got a plan for me, so everything happens for a reason, so I just pray and keep pushing forward.”
It’s not normal for a college basketball player to turn down a scholarship to walk-on, but Dante Scott isn’t a normal college basketball player.
While other players may major in business or communications, Scott studies biomedical engineering.
Scott has always wanted to get into the engineering field, mainly due to his family. Growing up, he and his uncle, a computer engineer, had a close relationship, which pushed him towards wanting to become an engineer himself.
With all of the difficult homework and studying that comes along with an engineering degree, it can be difficult to find the time to juggle class and the responsibilities of being a Division I athlete, but Scott finds ways to make it all work.
“It’s tough, but I have a lot of free time before practice to get my work done, so time management is key,” Scott said.
In high school, Scott played two years at Campbell High School before deciding he wasn’t happy with where the school was athletically. In order to maximize his basketball success, he transferred to IMG Academy in Florida for his final two years of high school.
IMG is a private high school with a heavy emphasis on athletics and an impressive list of alumni. Many NFL players including Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson have trained at the school. Landon Donovan played there in high school before becoming the most successful American soccer player of all-time. For basketball, the IMG Academy has trained eight NBA draftees, the most notable of which is Michael Beasley, who was taken second overall by the Miami Heat in the 2008 NBA Draft.
Scott spent two years each at both IMG and a traditional high school, and got to experience the differences with each.
“They were hard on the academic part, but it was really more focused on the athletics, and living on my own, all that was different,” the Memphis freshman said. “I had a lot of support down there, between the coaches, my friends and my family that lives in Tampa, which is very close to IMG. It was a little different, not really though. Just everything was focused around basketball. Before and after school, most of the day we practiced.”
The main differences between the schools were in the facilities. Scott mentioned at IMG both the gym and the weight room were bigger, and “everything was more advanced.”
Scott played only one minute in Memphis’ exhibition game victory over LeMoyne Owen and two minutes in the season opener against Southern Miss. He recorded two rebounds in Memphis’ 67-49 win.
According to Scott, he was concerned about a lack of playing time at Memphis due to his walk-on status, but he talked with Pastner who told him that he would be given a fair chance.
Point guard D’Marnier Cunningham was in a similar situation with the Tigers a season ago. Cunningham wasn’t technically a walk-on, but he was brought in on a one-year scholarship due to the team’s lack of depth at the point guard position. He eventually broke into the rotation and became a regular contributor, appearing in 20 games and playing 217 minutes.
Cunningham proved Pastner is willing to give minutes to anybody as long as they’re needed and ready to play. In the meantime, Scott just has to keep working and wait for his shot.