Maryland basketball player preview: Donta Scott

As the fifth and final season for Donta Scott in College Park approaches, the longest-tenured Terp will finish his stellar career with one final chance to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.

In his four previous seasons, Scott has blossomed from a freshman who had a smaller role on the 2020 Big Ten Championship team, to an all-around leader who has the potential to help take the Terps to the next level.

After Scott began last season scorching hot, a somewhat disappointing February and March led people to believe that the 2022-23 campaign would be the final for him at Maryland. He finished the year averaging 11.3 points and six rebounds per game, while shooting just under 40% from the field and just over 30% from 3-point range.

In a long-lasting wait for a decision, Scott ultimately announced that he would be returning to College Park for his fifth season. His announcement coincided with Jahmir Young’s decision to return, giving head coach Kevin Willard two key veteran pieces at his disposal for the 2023-24 season.

Now that he is back, Scott has a chance to further cement himself as one of the best Maryland players in the modern era, as well as earn himself a shot at playing at the next level.

The 2022-23 season started out very strong for both Scott and the Terps. Maryland jumped out to an 8-0 record, largely in thanks to Donta Scott’s performance at the Mohegan Sun early season tournament.

In two games against Saint Louis and Miami, Scott poured in 25 and 24 points, respectively, and looked like he would be the main offensive catalyst for the Terps as the season progressed.

While he was never able to match the season-highs he reached in those two games, he continued a steady pace throughout the early portion of the Big Ten schedule. He chipped in 12 points in Maryland’s first conference matchup with Illinois on Dec. 2, a game the Terps won 71-66.

He helped Maryland storm back in the eventual 56-53 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 11 with nine points during the second-half surge, but routinely struggled finding the touch on his 3-point shot.

After his 0-6 performance against Tennessee, he failed to make a 3-point shot in three of the next five games, with three of those games resulting in a loss. His shooting struggles aligned with Maryland’s shooting struggles as a team, which caused them to showcase some very difficult offensive performances in the early stages of the conference schedule.

A five-game stretch to end January and begin February saw Scott reach double figures in five consecutive games as Maryland went on a four-game win streak. While his 3-point shooting percentage was still underwhelming, it was his aggression and willingness to get to the free-throw line where he was able to do the most damage.

His 19-point performance helped Maryland edge Indiana, 66-55. His 18 shots taken that night were a season high, but it was his perfect 6-for-6 free-throw shooting and overall performance down the stretch where he shined.

As the calendar flipped to February, Scott’s play became very streaky. He scored only five points in back-to-back games against Purdue and Nebraska, with the latter being due to a 2-16 shooting performance.

While many players would let a stretch like that impact their confidence and shot selection, Scott pushed all of the outside noise away and bounced back immediately, scoring 18 points on a very efficient 7-of-9 shooting from the field in a big win over Minnesota on Feb. 22.

He followed that up with another stellar showing, adding 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. A noticeable trend in both of those efficient performances was the fact that Scott only took one 3-point shot in each game, doing most of his damage on the interior.

As conference tournament play came around, it was unclear which player Maryland fans would see on a nightly basis.

Scott briefly put this narrative to rest in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament, as he connected on four 3-pointers and poured in 20 points to lead Maryland past Minnesota.

This good fortune was short lived, as a 4-of-14 shooting performance the following night contributed to Maryland’s second-half struggles in an eventual loss to Indiana.

Scott went 0-7 from the field in Maryland’s second-round exit to Alabama in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, ending his season.

With his fifth and final season looming, here are three benchmarks that he can use to bounce back and find some more consistency during the 2023-24 season.

1. Three-point shot selection

As mentioned, a large reason behind why Donta Scott lacked so much shooting consistency was due to his struggles from 3-point range.

In games where Scott failed to make a 3-pointer, Maryland’s record was 4-5. In games where he made at least one 3-pointer, Maryland’s record was 18-8. It is clear that 3-point shooting is an important aspect in not only Scott’s game, but Maryland’s overall performance.

Since moving back to his natural power forward position, Scott has balanced his perimeter shooting with his interior presence.

This will be mentioned in the following benchmark, but if Scott can limit his amount of 3-point shots taken in a game and utilize his strength on the interior, his efficiency has a chance to improve.

2. Play inside-out

When his perimeter shot has struggled, the interior post presence of Scott has been where he has done plenty of damage throughout his four years in College Park.

While his numbers weren’t outstanding from inside the arc, Scott shot 44% from the field, a 13% increase from his 3-point percentage. When he is feeling confident, his right-handed hook shot is one of his go-to’s.

During the 2020-21 season, Maryland routinely used Scott as its starting center due to its lack of size. After a freshman season where he started 21 games at the power forward position, he was forced to slide even further down the following season.

It was during this time in which Scott was able to maximize his athletic ability and take advantage of the slower centers who guarded him. His interior game improved, which he was able to use as he slid back down to the power forward slot in his next two seasons.

For Scott, an inside-out style of play will benefit his efficiency and confidence. When his post-hook gets going and his confidence grows is when the 3-point shot will follow.

3. Less is more

The 2023-24 Maryland basketball team has a lot of firepower. The additions of DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser to an already formidable duo of Jahmir Young and Julian Reese have the Terps on the cusp of the top-25.

How far they go will largely be due to the impact of Donta Scott as the fifth starter. His dynamic scoring ability and newfound athleticism will be key to the impact he can have on the team’s success.

While he will be looked at as a veteran leader on a relatively young team, his role may be best suited as an interior role player who plays off the slashing Harris-Smith and Young.

Donta Scott took just over 10 shots per game in the 2022-23 season, and may be better off taking that many shots, if not less, this upcoming season.

In no way should he defer to others or specifically focus on having the ball in his hands less, but there were 18 games last season in which he missed seven or more shots from the field.

An efficient and confident Donta Scott is what Maryland fans are interested in seeing, and is what will give the Terps the best opportunity to succeed in the Big Ten this season.

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