As Maryland men’s basketball prepared for the 2023-24 season, coach Kevin Willard raved about Donta Scott’s offseason and said the fifth-year forward was poised for a breakout year. That could provide a big boost to a Willard squad that has started its season 1-2.
One of the Terps’ most notable struggles has been lackluster perimeter shooting, an area Scott’s had mixed success with throughout his career. After shooting an impressive 43.8 percent from three during his sophomore campaign, his three-point percentage has hovered around 30 percent over the last two seasons. He’s made a third of his attempts through the first three games of the year.
Scott’s averaging 8.7 points and five rebounds per game through three contests but his shooting could be an x-factor for the Terps, and his overall impact is something that Willard believes goes beyond the stat sheet.
The Philadelphia native has been imperfect yet impactful for the Terps through three games. In game four, Scott will get the chance to play near his hometown for the first time in his collegiate career when Maryland travels to Villanova on Friday.
“He reminds me of a Draymond Green type of guy. You know, his stats are never great, but they’re always there … He does so many good things that people don’t see,” Willard said. “He’s a guy that I know when he’s on the floor, that although he might make a mistake or do something, he’s going to make up for it with great effort and great hustle.”
The mistakes that Willard mentioned were costly in Maryland’s pair of narrow losses at the Asheville Championship. Scott fouled a 3-point shooter in both losses and gave Davidson an open look that ended up as the game-winning shot.
Through Maryland’s opening three games, Scott has led Maryland in offensive rating, a metric judging a player’s individual offensive efficiency, per KenPom, and plus-minus, which measures a team’s point differential when a player is on the floor.
Scott hasn’t featured heavily in Maryland’s offense. He’s been used in 15.2 percent of the Terps’ possessions thus far, the lowest rate since his freshman season and just the sixth highest on this year’s team, per KenPom.
Part of that could be attributed to the fact that Willard is still figuring out his team’s optimal lineup combinations and roles — something the coach discussed after Maryland’s season opener, where he said he needed to find ways to get Scott more involved offensively.
“[I get through it] by just coming in, not just expecting the same thing every day,” Scott said. “It’s coming in, being ready to work and be ready to step in whenever you need and being able to adjust to all the different setups and different lineups.”
Scott and the Terps will continue adjusting and move forward, with their next test coming against No. 21 Villanova on Friday at Finneran Pavilion.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Scott. He will also face former Terp Hakim Hart, a fellow Philadelphia native who transferred to Villanova ahead of this season.
Scott said it’ll be strange seeing Hart, a close friend of his, in a different uniform. He said they two played against each other once in high school, but since then, they shared the court at Xfinity Center for four years. Now, they’ll take each other on as Scott returns to the place he once called home.
“There’s not too many times I really get to go out there, back to Philly,” Scott said. “I’m really excited, I get to be close to home and put on for my city.”