A meeting with Virginia head coach Dave Leitao following the 2007-08 men’s basketball season made a strong impression on Cavalier forward Mike Scott.
“Coach stressed defense to us (after last season), especially to me,” Scott said. “I need to defend better.”
The Chesapeake native started 21 of the Cavaliers’ 33 games as a freshman and averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. But Scott wasn’t pleased with his performance or the team’s results during the season. He literally could not wait to get back to work. While he was in Charlottesville during the summer, he spent the early morning hours on the track, working out with his teammates.
“I told my teammates, when we’re up at 6 a.m., working on the track, We’re working, while they sleep,’” Scott said. “I think we’re going to show everybody how hard we’ve worked.”
Conditioning was not his only focus. Scott spent time improving his basketball skills during the off-season. While he was at home in Chesapeake he worked with his father, Michael, a Marine Corps veteran, on agility exercises and drills to improve his ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
“I felt every word he (Leitao) said to me,” said Scott.
Scott’s summer regimen included 4:30 a.m. runs on the track and weight room workouts that focused on improving his explosiveness. Scott also worked with basketball trainer Ganon Baker. Baker has worked with several NBA players, including Jason Kidd and Allen Iverson.
“He worked with me on dribbling and shooting drills,” Scott said. “ Particularly drills facing the basket. I noticed high school players came and watched me work out. It gave me confidence to see people looking up to me back home.”
Confidence is another attribute Scott said he improved during the off-season. Last year he found himself watching the older players, such as Sean Singletary. Entering his second season at UVa, Scott sees an opening to take a more active role in the team’s development on a daily basis.
That came earlier than usually this year because Scott and his teammates had the benefit of additional practice and competition over Labor Day weekend. The team held 10 practices before playing three exhibition games in Canada.
“We’re getting better every day,” Scott said. “We’ve really worked hard since the end of last season. This year we’re ready and antsy to play. “
Virginia resumes practice on Oct. 18 in preparation for the 2008-09 season. UVa meets Shepherd University in an exhibition game at John Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 9 before opening the season at home against VMI on Nov. 16.
“Defend, rebound and score, that’s what I want to do,” Scott said. “And whatever it takes to lead this team to a victory, I’ll do it.”