During the upcoming 2003-04 school year, one of the best basketball players to ever knock down a shot in Columbia County will close out his high-school career.
Lakeside guard Matt Scott will be a senior.
It seems Scott has been playing for the Panthers for a decade, but really he has just provided a decade's worth of highlights as a three-year starter at Lakeside.
The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter will start for a fourth straight season, and if he stays healthy, he will have a chance to pass some of the area's all-time stars on the career scoring chart.
As a freshman, Scott stepped in and averaged an impressive 13.4 points per game. There was no sophomore slump for Scott - he blossomed during his second prep campaign, pouring in 19 points per game and exploding for 43 points against Butler, the fourth-ranked team in Class AAAA.
Last season, as a junior, Scott dueled Greenbrier's Eric Marshall for the CSRA scoring title. Scott settled for second with 26.7 points a night, and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career.
All of those numbers have caused college scouts to take notice.
Division I programs, such as Western Carolina and Mercer, already have offered Scott a full scholarship. Other programs showing serious interest are Marshall, Georgia Southern, Furman, St. Louis and Clemson.
Scott has become more than just a blip on the college-prospect radar screen, despite the fact that Lakeside's basketball team has struggled in each of Scott's three seasons.
One thing that has helped Scott draw some attention from scouts is his work during the off-season, and that is especially true this summer.
Scott recently attended the prestigious Five-Star Basketball Camp in Pittsburgh, run by longtime hoops guru Howard Garkinfel.
Just to attend a camp of this magnitude is significant, but Scott did more than just show up. He went in as one of the unheralded players at the camp, but that status quickly changed - Scott established himself early as one of the camp's best shooters.
Scott was so impressive that Garfinkel began to call him the next J.J. Redick, a freshman sensation last season at Duke.
By the end of the camp, Scott had chalked up a team title, an MVP award in the championship game, and was selected to play in the all-star game.
More than 550 players attended the camp (with about 180 in Scott's age group), and making the all-star game assures more - and better - college offers for the Lakeside senior.
Also, Garfinkel has offered to bring Scott back to the camp's second session this weekend, free of charge.
At the Five-Star camp, Scott reaped the rewards from hard work, and the gains can be partly attributed to another area basketball star - former Josey and Georgia Southern standout Michael Stokes has put Scott on an off-season workout schedule, and Stokes is helping by giving some advice on the college recruiting scene.
"Michael's been great. He has sort of taken Matt under his wing, and they don't just work out and play ball," said Matt's father, Mike Scott. "Sometimes they will just sit and talk about the game. He has been great to Matt."
Matt agrees the relationship with Stokes has been a benefit.
"He has really helped me a lot. I met him when I was in middle school, and he started working on my shot, and helped me get better. I owe him a lot," he said.
At Five-Star, Scott talked hoops with Indiana Pacers guard Ron Artest.
Artest has a bad-boy image, but Scott disputed that notion, saying, "He's nothing like that. He's a millionaire, but he stayed in the dorms with us and he took time to talk basketball with everyone."
Artest also is known as being a hard worker, and Scott followed that lead this summer.
Along with juggling summer school and team camp with the Panthers, Scott found extra time to hone his talent. Whether it was a 7:30 a.m. weightlifting session, playing pick-up games at Augusta State, or simply shooting hundreds of jump shots in his spare time, Scott has been pursuing excellence on the court.
Scott says he likely will wait until the spring signing period to seal a scholarship deal.
By opting not to sign early in November, Scott will expand his possibilities, and bigger programs like Cincinnati, Auburn and St. Johns (who all have shown interest) might make an offer.
Of course, there is his senior season to consider, and Scott has set some high goals.
"I think we can be the best team in the county, and I'd really like to win 10 games," Scott said. "And we could get a playoff spot."
There are individual goals as well.
"I'd really like to get 2,000 (career) points," he says. "If I average about what I did last year, I should get it."
Competing alongside such talented players this summer, Scott has learned he needs to improve defensively, and he has been working hard to do just that.
If he continues to improve his defense and ball-handling skills, Scott probably will be playing for a big-time college basketball program in the near future.
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