The men’s basketball team recently locked up its fifth-straight MIAC conference title and is poised to make a serious run yet again in the postseason. With a 20-2 record, 16-1 in conference, St. Thomas has dominated its competition all season.
Squarely in the middle of the success is All-American senior captain Joe Scott, a three-year starter for St. Thomas whose presence has lifted the program to another level.
Scott exploded onto the MIAC scene after playing his freshman season at Division II Colorado University in Colorado Springs. He led St. Thomas in scoring in both his sophomore and junior seasons, helping the Tommies to a No. 1 national ranking last year.
This season, however, Scott’s role has shifted away from top scorer to becoming a more prominent leader.
“I try to lead by example,” Scott said. “I do my best to communicate with everyone what we expect of them and how we can win as a team.”
Teammates and coaches say Scott has stepped into his position as an experienced anchor for the team.
“He’s definitely displayed a lot of leadership,” junior teammate Alex Healy said. “He’s a person we all look up to as someone who works really hard.”
Coach John Tauer said Scott has delivered on the coaching staff’s desire for added leadership from their seniors. In the process Scott, already a dynamic scoring threat, has bought into the St. Thomas mantra of winning with defense.
“He’s defending much, much better than he has in the past,” Tauer said. “He’s certainly become a more complete player.”
Averaging just under 29 minutes of playing time per game this season, Scott’s improved defense has been a big part of the Tommies’ stingy defense, which allows an average of just 60.6 points per game. Scott recognizes the correlation with the win column.
“When our defense is clicking, that’s when we really play well,” he said. “It all comes down to defense.”
Scott’s point average is down slightly from last year, but St. Thomas is armed again this season with formidable depth, so it has the luxury of not needing big games offensively from any single player to get wins. Still, Scott is a ticking time bomb on offense and can go off on any given night, exhibited by his 21-point performance Jan. 27 against Augsburg.
“The games where he catches fire tend to be the ones that we’re most explosive,” Tauer said.
Scott has already compiled a memorable career at St. Thomas, but as his senior year draws to a close he recognizes how important this year is.
“Every game I play it’s like I’m counting down almost the number of games I could have left to play college basketball,” he said. “I’m trying not to think about it too much.”
With three regular season games left and a potential postseason run in the near future, St. Thomas can extend Scott’s college basketball career as long as possible. The length of it will depend on how long the Tommies can keep winning, but Scott should feel good about his chances in that regard. With a record of 73-8 since he arrived, Scott has been a crucial part of making sure St. Thomas expects to win every time it steps on the court.
Jordan Osterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.