Donta Scott’s Senior Day at the University of Maryland

Today was Senior Day for the University of Maryland basketball team. Hakim Hart (Philly Pride/Roman Catholic) and Donta Scott (Philly Pride/Imhotep) may have played their last home game in a Terrapin uniform. Both have Covid-years in their pocket, if they want to come back and play a 5th season in College Park. Both also have NBA aspirations and will make every effort to ascertain their likely draft status before making a decision on whether or not to play another year of college basketball.

For Scott, in particular, Senior Day takes on significant meaning. Scott wrote a book, WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey, over a year ago in which outlined the way he came to grips with the fact that he learns differently than most people. The book was reviewed in the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Tribune. Scott has discussed his educational experience with children at numerous schools and camps in Philadelphia, Chester and Prince George’s County, Maryland. He’s become a sort of expert and advocate for young people dealing with a learning disability diagnosis.

I’ve been fortunate to have a front row seat and watch him evolve over the past decade. When we met, Scott was an academically insecure middle school student exhibiting a recurrent pattern of engaging in acting out, disruptive and negative attention seeking behaviors when encountering frustration in learning. He had very poor organization and study skills.

As he neared completion of the eighth grader, Scott was set to enroll at Archbishop Caroll High School in the Philadelphia Catholic League to play varsity basketball for Paul Romanczuk. Basketball-wise… great choice. Romanczuk is wonderful coach that has repeatedly competed with the top Catholic League programs.

But… what about his learning disability?

Scott’s mother, Sandra Campbell and his AAU coach/surrogate father Howard Hudson asked me to review his IEP before they made a final decision regarding Archbishop Carroll. I carefully read every page of the document. Then I called my friend Dr. Abby Baker, a psychologist that has worked closely with 30-40 of the top HS and college basketball athletes in the region over the past decade and asked for her opinion.

We both concluded that, in order for Scott to attain and maintain a level of academic performance that is commensurate with his intellectual ability, he needed to attend a school with a strong special education program in place. While Archbishop Carroll is a fine academic institution that prepares it’s students to compete in some of the finest colleges in the country, it does not have a particularly strong special education program.

Campbell and Hudson asked me where could they find a combination of elite basketball and a strong special education program? That was exactly the right question to ask. Even at the tender age of 14, it was apparent that Scott would evolve into a scholarship level basketball prospect. He needed to be pushed athletically in practice and play a top flight schedule in order to each his potential.

Simultaneously, he needed an academic program that could provide instruction specially designed to meet his unique needs as a student that learned differently. If he was going to be prepared to enter college upon graduation, Scott needed an education individually developed to address his specific needs resulting from his disability.

I told Campbell and Hudson they should consider Imhotep Charter School. I reached out to my then friend, Andre Noble, and arranged an introductory meeting. Scott, Hudson and I visited Imhotep and met with Noble and his Special Education teachers. Imhotep had extensive experience developing and implementing academic programs for students with learning disabilities. The decision was made to enroll Scott at Imhotep.

He went on to have one of finest schoolboy basketball careers in the history of the Philadelphia Public League.

In the classroom, he also did very well. Scott easily met NCAA freshman eligibility guidelines and was recruited heavily by some of the top programs in the nation. Scott took official visits to South Carolina, Maryland, Seton Hall, Temple, Penn State, Temple and La Salle. He declined offers to visit programs like Florida, Auburn and Georgia.

Campbell and Hudson accompanied Scott on every visit. I went on every visit except one.

Ultimately, Scott chose to accept a scholarship from and attend the University of Maryland. His decision resulted in some very hard feelings locally. Ten and twenty year friendships were torn asunder. People were very upset that he chose to leave town.

Having accompanied Scott on his visits, I completely understood his decision. I was in the room when Hudson forced Scott to compare and rank his final 5 or 6 programs in the following areas:

Coaches – Maryland
Facilities – Maryland
Academic Support – Maryland
Living Arrangement – Maryland
Travel Accommodations – Maryland
Stipend/Compensation – Maryland

Eventually, I interjected and said “Man… what the fuck are we doing? It’s clear where he wants to go… Let’s get it over with.”

With that, Scott called all the coaches and informed him of his decision.

Today, he played what may be his last home in a Maryland uniform. As a freshman starter, Maryland was the Big 10 regular season Co-Champion and the playoffs were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a sophomore starter, the Terp made the NCAA tournament and won a first round game before bowing out in the second round. His coach, Mark Turgeon abruptly resigned in the middle of his junior season and the team struggled. As a senior starter, Scott has helped lead the Terps to 20-9 record and they currently stand in 2nd place. Once again, Maryland will play in the NCAA tournament.

Scott will finish this season with more than 1300 career points and 700 rebounds. He’s gonna graduate on time… He has a nice car… He’s a published author and respected public speaker… He’s made some VERY GOOD NIL money… He’s spent some quality time with a few nice looking Maryland coeds… He’s lived in a luxury apartment… He’s flown exclusively on private jets… Stayed exclusively in 5 star hotels…

I woke up extra early this morning and made my way to the 6:30 am service at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. I felt a need to pray for those that questioned the young man’s decision four years ago. I also prayed that God will help me continue to offer sound counsel and advise to Scott and his family. So far… So good…

By 8:45 am, I was on the road to Maryland… Go Hak! Go Donta! Go Terps!

And… He can do it all again next year… If he so chooses.

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