Ten years ago, Bryce Scott rode shotgun on a championship tour.
At age 11, Scott soaked up every practice, every game for Oak Ridge High School, coached by his father Steve. Bryce was there when the Trojans stunned nationally ranked Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the 2005 CIF State Division II championship game at Arco Arena, jumping, celebrating, hamming it up in team photos, and dreaming of the day he’d experience that same sort of elation as a player.
Scott never won a championship when he played varsity ball at Oak Ridge, though he did earn All-Metro honors from The Bee as a versatile guard. But it played out perfectly last Wednesday. With his father on hand and watching anxiously, Scott helped Lafayette of Easton, Pa., edge American University 65-63 to win the Patriot League and qualify for the NCAA Tournament. As a junior guard, Scott has provided ballhandling and experience as a third-year starter for the Leopards. After the American victory, father and son found each other and embraced.
“My dad being there was the greatest thing,” Scott said by phone Monday afternoon before a Lafayette practice. “He’s coached me since I was a little kid. He’s seen the vision I’ve had of a March Madness moment, and for him to be a part of it, to watch me in that game, to see me celebrate, it was so meaningful. It meant everything to us.
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“And Dad always pushed me. I told him where I wanted to go, to a Division I school, and he was right there. I’m very thankful and grateful.”
As a 16th seed, the Leopards (20-12) face the daunting task of battling top-seeded Villanova (32-2) on Thursday in the East Regional in Pittsburgh. It’s an upstart against a traditional power, and a No.1 seed has never lost to a 16 since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, when Villanova won its lone title.
“We just know this is an amazing challenge,” Scott said. “All we can do is prepare the best we can and go out and give it everything we’ve got. We played Villanova last year and gave them a good game. We were up with seven minutes to go before we lost (75-59), so we’re familiar with them.”
An economics major, the 6-foot-3 Scott averaged 11.5 points last season and is scoring 8.5 now in something of a role change. Always the leading scorer in high school who had to face the opponent’s top defender, Scott is now Lafayette’s stopper.
“It’s been a huge change, but I love it,” Scott said. “The team needed a stopper, and I saw that as a role I could do. We already have a lot of good scorers on our team. I took the challenge, and I’ve grown to absolutely love defense.”
But how did a kid from El Dorado Hills wind up so far east? Scott followed the footsteps of former Folsom High star guard Tony Johnson, continuing a friendship that started years earlier. They became so close that they have hosted summer youth basketball tournaments in the region. Johnson now plays professionally in Mexico.
“Tony was amazing, and he taught me so much about the college game, how to deal with the change of speed, how to deal with the college grind,” Scott said. “I’m so comfortable and happy here. Glad I’m here.”
More NCAA dancing – Four graduates of area high schools are on the San Diego State team that earned a No. 8 seed and will play No. 9 St. John’s on Friday in the South Region. Former Sheldon guards Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams are joined by forward Malik Pope of Laguna Creek and guard Parker U’u of Jesuit.
Will Davis II of Sacramento High is a forward on UC Irvine, a No. 13 seed, which plays fourth-seeded Louisville on Friday in the East Region. Davis was named the Big West Conference tournament MVP after posting double doubles in three victories, averaging 15.0 points and 11.7 rebounds.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.