LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Will Scott laughingly admits it was one of the more unusual recruiting trips in the history of Louisville basketball.
Four years ago Scott called up family friend and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino after deciding he wanted to leave Cornell, where as a freshman he was playing quite a bit for Big Red. The Scotts had grown close to Pitino during his time with the New York Knicks in the 1980s. Norman Scott, Will's father, served as the team's physician for decades.
But while Scott wanted to take a chance on Cardinals basketball, his parents had their doubts about Louisville's academic program.
So rather than spend time having Pitino try and sell them on basketball, the Scotts interviewed faculty members at Louisville's business school during their recruiting trip.
"They tried to persuade my parents that the academic life at Louisville was as rigorous as I'd been accustomed to," Scott said. "My parents like basketball, don't get me wrong. But they know that my future doesn't lie in the game."
While at Cornell, Scott missed the rhythms of living in his native New York City and even more, he felt he was selling himself short as a player. His parents wanted him to transfer to Columbia.
But Scott said Pitino hit the right cord with him.
"Coach Pitino, the one thing he said to me, you can get a great education anywhere and you make your education what it is," Scott said. "You don't want to look back in 10 years and think about what it would be like to play on a national championship team."
Four years later, Scott is a small -- but important in his own way -- cog for the sixth-ranked Cardinals (23-5, 14-2 Big East), who play their final home game of the season on Wednesday against Seton Hall (15-13, 6-10).
Scott knows he could have played more if he'd stayed at Cornell. He's averaging a modest 2.3 points in mostly spot duty as a designated 3-point marksman. Yet he wouldn't go back.
"I knew growing up around the game that in my heart I had to take a chance to see if I could play at this level," Scott said.
After spending three years as a walk-on, Pitino rewarded Scott with a scholarship this season. It was a symbolic gesture for a player that may be the most well-liked on the team, even if his teammates don't hesitate to call him a "dork."
He understands. He's lived with it his whole life. It's what happens when you're an overachiever. Scott wrapped up his undergraduate degree in marketing last year and should be done with his MBA this spring.
Scott sheepishly admits his GPA during his last semester was "only" a 3.6. Then again, it's not bad for a guy who misses nearly all of his daylong Saturday classes because he's with the team. He spends most of his week playing catch-up, though he's not always the bookworm his teammates paint him to be.
"There's always time to beat somebody in Madden," he said. "You've just got to have that structure to know when."
Pitino marvels at Scott's discipline.
"This opportunity for him has been unique," Pitino said. "He wanted to stand out. At Cornell, maybe he would have been lost in the shuffle. He's a diamond in the rough here because of all the things he has to do and because of that, he shines."
While fellow senior Terrence Williams dreams of playing in the NBA next season, Scott will trade in rollicking nights at Freedom Hall for the quiet din of the library at Oxford University. He'll be part of the Modern Chinese Studies program. Scott became enamored with the country and the culture as an undergraduate and is intrigued by the world's fastest growing superpower.
"I see myself kind of helping people and dealing with things like human rights," he said
He spent a couple weeks in China last summer, though admits he's still got a long way to go before being fluent. Ask him how well he speaks Chinese and he just laughs.
"I could basically keep us from dying," he says.
It's typical Scott, whose self-deprecating humor has endeared him to his teammates. He worried about how his relationship with Pitino would be viewed by the other players when he arrived on campus.
It took all of one practice to put those fears to rest. When Scott got lost while chasing around former Louisville star Taquan Dean, Pitino blew his whistle, offered a few choice words for the player he'd known for more than a decade and sent Scott to a nearby treadmill as punishment.
There have been plenty of return trips to the treadmill over the years. Yet he hasn't regretted any of it.
And if the NBA were an option, Oxford would have to wait.
"If I could trade (Oxford) to go to the NBA, of course I would," he said. "For me since going to the NBA is not an option, it's a good close second. Hopefully (Oxford) will lead me down the road to make a bigger impact."
For the Cardinals, he already has.
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