Justin Scott, head men’s basketball coach, isn’t afraid to take long shots.
At Arcadia, Scott has turned around a struggling program, leading the team to its most successful season in a decade. In his three years at the helm, Scott earned Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth Coach of the Year and Sam Cozen Coach of the Year honors while guiding Arcadia to two Commonwealth Conference tournament appearances and the program’s first appearance in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Regional Championship.
Now, he will serve as head coach of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Senior Men’s team in the 2015 FIBA Caribbean Basketball Championship. The tournament takes place June 15-21.
FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, governs the Basketball World Cup. Scott will coach with the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC), an organization of 22 teams that also includes Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Top CBC Championship winners advance to the Centrobasket Championship, which determines who faces the North American champions for spots in the Summer Olympics and FIBA World Cup.
The opportunity arose last summer, before Scott’s first visit to St. Vincent, where his mother was born.
“I was poking around online,” he said. “I’m just a basketball junkie. I was trying to see if I could get involved while I was there, maybe help out at a clinic or watch a practice.”
Scott messaged the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Team on Facebook. A few days later, John Sutton Jr., CBC president, offered Scott the position.
Scott’s return to St. Vincent will be his first since July, which has made preparation an interesting proposition.
“The first time I’m going to meet my team will be that first day, when I step onto the island again,” he said. “From there, I’m going to continue familiarizing myself with our strengths and weaknesses. Then I’ll start putting in plays, putting my own style into it, doing what I love—coaching basketball.”
The tournament will present its share of challenges, as St. Vincent and the Grenadines is currently unranked on FIBA boards. Scott will start by leading a five-day training camp, the only time he’ll have to build a relationship with his team. Although English is spoken on the island, players have a distinct dialect that may complicate communication. Additionally, the players are all around Scott’s age or older. Coaching peers, not students, means adjusting on the fly. Also, international basketball has different rules and court dimensions than Scott may be used to.
A final challenge: Scott will coach against former NBA star Sam Mitchell in the third game. Mitchell, 2006-07 NBA Coach of the Year and now assistant coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is leading the British Virgin Islands team.
“I remember watching Sam Mitchell play,” Scott said. “Maybe it’s just the competitor in me, but if I could say, ‘I beat an NBA Coach of the Year’...how could you not get excited?”
The CBC Championship is a trial run for next year. Scott noted his involvement with St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be long term.
Recruitment and development are also a priority. Scott will network with other coaches, players, and officials during the championship. Going forward, he hopes to increase basketball's popularity in St. Vincent, where soccer or cricket are preferred, by starting camps to build basketball at a grassroots level.
“FIBA really resonates with high school students here. So if they see me, it’s like, ‘Coach Scott’s a head coach for an international team. Arcadia must have something special.’”