This story originally appeared in the Holiday issue of ESPNHS magazine’s Colorado edition.
Don’t be fooled.
Josh Scott can come across as a gentle giant. The Lewis-Palmer senior is friendly and gregarious, popular with classmates. The eldest of A.J. and Theresa Scott’s five boys, Josh is constantly carting around his brothers, his friends and his brothers’ friends in his beat-up silver Kia Amanti.
“He’s like the team mom,” says his brother Jordan, a junior forward for Lewis-Palmer. “He drives all of us that live close — at least until a couple weeks ago when all of us got our license(s).”
Scott is also a member of the Rowdy Rangers, a spirit group at Lewis-Palmer. He’s literally a choirboy. In fact, he’s lifting his voice every chance he gets.
“All the time, he never stops,” Jordan says. “When he’s not talking, he’s singing.”
Then there was the time Josh helped a girl he hardly knew get to her car because she had an injured ankle. The 6-foot-10 big man swooped her up in his arms and carried her from the gym, down the hallway, through the doors and out to the parking lot. He didn’t think anyone was watching, but his coach, Russ McKinstry, saw the whole thing.
“That’s the type of kid Josh is,” McKinstry says. “Nobody would have known that happened, he just did it because he’s a good person. He’s just a good person at heart.”
When the coach relayed that story at a team banquet, much to Josh’s embarrassment, he teared up.
But really, that’s only half the story — the half that might trick you into thinking that Josh Scott is so nice he must be soft. Don’t be fooled: On the court, Scott isn’t trying to make friends.
“He just really has a swagger, a mean streak,” says McKinstry.
“If you’re going to be a big-time player at a big-time level, you better have a heck of a swagger. He just owns the court when he takes the court now.”
Rated the state’s top player and the nation’s No. 46 senior recruit in the ESPNU 100, Scott averaged 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game last year in leading Lewis-Palmer to the Class 4A state semifinals. Those numbers would have been higher had McKinstry not pulled his star early when games were in hand, as was often the case.
There’s every reason to believe that Scott will be even better this year than he was as a junior. For one, he’s added about 15 pounds. Second, he was coming off minor foot surgery when he started the season last year and never felt totally comfortable. Finally, he’s improved his shooting and ball-handling, and he can be deadly on the break.
“I know people project me as a 5, but I want to have the skills of a point,” Scott says. “I like playing in the open court. Most big dudes aren’t quick enough to keep up with me, so I can just get to the rim whenever I want.”
While Scott is a natural athlete, the strides he’s made are the product of hard work — something that’s expected in a military family. Both of Scott’s parents served in the Air Force, and both starred athletically (Dad in football, Mom in hoops) at the academy.
For Scott, spending hours toiling in the gym is practically second nature by now.
“I know that I got into this position from working hard,” he says. “I know that there’s another kid out there that’s like me that could be working their butt off.”
McKinstry says people sometimes overlook that drive.
“They don’t understand the hours and hours of weightlifting and speed-and-agility work, and the hours and hours on the court refining his skills and his talent,” says McKinstry. “When you see a kid working that hard … it just makes you smile.”
Opposing teams won’t be doing much smiling this season. It’s scary to think what kind of stats a healthier, stronger and more versatile Scott could put up, but he isn’t worried about his numbers. Sure, it might be nice to break some of the records set by L-P legend Pat Garrity, who went on to play at Notre Dame and in the NBA, but Scott is most focused on one thing: winning state.
The Rangers have advanced to the Final Four for three consecutive years without claiming a title, and Scott was L-P’s star player the past two of those. Last winter the team was moments away from playing for the state championship before losing in double overtime. Dagger.
“We should have won the state championship last year,” says McKinstry. “We feel like we let one get away from us. Now we just have to make sure psychologically we get over the hump.”
It would be a fitting conclusion to Scott’s high school career, though it won’t be the end of his Colorado hoops days: Scott has made basketball fans around the state happy by committing to play his college ball for the Buffaloes. Of course, a lot of them won’t be rooting for him until next year — after he’s done terrorizing opposing high school squads.
Scott already makes frequent trips to Boulder, spending time with friends who are enrolled there as well as with some of his future teammates. He’s taken in a few football games and grows fonder of the school with each visit. You could be fooled into thinking this means that Scott is looking past this season, that he already has one foot out the door.
But by now, you should know better than to be fooled by Josh Scott.
Lucas O'Neill is a senior writer for ESPNHS magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @LucasESPN