As far as college basketball comfort levels go, the 2011-12 season was shaping up like an extended stay in a Ritz-Carlton for Carleton Scott.
Following Sunday’s decision to remain in the 2011 NBA draft, Scott may have to eventually scramble to call home a room at a Holiday Inn Express.
Set to graduate May 22, Scott’s toughest academic days were behind him. On the court, he was just beginning to be known as someone who could impact games in myriad ways at either end.
Set to serve a second season as a team captain, Scott could step into the spot vacated by former guard Ben Hansbrough as the face of the Notre Dame program.
"It’s tough when you have a chance to come back and be ‘The Man,’" Scott said Monday outside the Irish locker room. "It’s just something I have to live with and hope for the best."
Scott chose to begin the next phase of his basketball career and skip his final year of eligibility. Though his draft status could soar in the coming weeks, Scott may have as much chance of hearing his name called in the two-round selection process in late June as the Chicago Cubs do of winning the 2011 World Series.
"I’m not going to lie; it is an intimidating process," Scott said. "You’re just kind of jumping out there into the dark. I’m willing to take that chance."
It’s a chance that few Irish have taken during coach Mike Brey’s tenure. Of the five players who have declared early, only Scott and Troy Murphy, an eventual lottery pick, decided not to return. Scott stands alone in one regard. He is days away from graduating, which was an important part of the entire process.
"There would be no NBA conversation without his degree," said Scott’s father, Michael. "With his degree, Carleton feels like this is his time to seize the moment.
"The world is in front of him."
Many expected Scott to give the NBA no more than a casual glance when word of his decision to test the draft process first leaked near the end of the Notre Dame banquet on April 13. Even after it did, Brey talked of what next year’s team would look like when, not if, Scott returned from his three-week fact-finding mission. His voice was so critical. His leadership so vital. And his game, seemingly still developing after a season that saw him average career-highs for points (11.2), rebounds (7.4) and minutes (31.2), was sure to be even more complete next winter.
"Coming back and getting better would have been a great thing," Scott said. "But I just feel like I can try and do that somewhere else."
Two weeks ago, as Scott dived deeper into the draft process and with graduation nearing, Brey started thinking seriously that Scott had played his final game for the Irish. Scott awoke Sunday comfortable that he was ready to go. By Sunday evening, Brey had shifted from gathering facts to helping Scott move forward.
"At some point, it’s his decision," Brey said. "At age 22, you’re a man. Make a decision. And he did.
"It’s a good decision ‘cause it’s his decision."
But will it pay off with a future in the NBA? Scott’s name appears nowhere near any early mock draft, and his decision to leave school was panned more than it was praised by draft experts.
"He’s a very good shooter and he has good size (but) I don’t know why he decided to do this," said Ryan Feldman of The Hoops Report. "I don’t think he’s an NBA player."
Scott’s size (he measures 6-foot-7 in shoes) and length (a 7-2.5 wing span) might get him a look, but he was little more than a role player in three years at Notre Dame. In the NBA, Feldman stressed, role players usually are guys who were college stars. Scott never earned so much as an All-Big East post-season honor.
ESPN.com draft expert Chad Ford has Scott ranked as the 120th best prospect in the 2011 draft, which carries only 60 selections. Mathematics and opinions aside, Scott believes he’s worthy of a selection by someone.
"I do anticipate (getting drafted)," he said. "I’m going to work my tail off to work up to that. If that doesn’t happen, then we have to go down a different road."
That road likely leads overseas and a career in Greece, in Italy or in Spain or another foreign land far from his San Antonio home. If Scott does earn a serious look from an NBA team, he’ll likely still have to prove himself in the NBA Development League outposts of Bakersfield, Calif., Orem, Utah or Rio Grande, Texas. There, small crowds, long bus rides, the occasional fast food meal and crowded commercial flights are the norm.
It is a life far different than the one Scott leaves behind. But ....
"That’s one of the risks you have to take if you’re putting your name in and keeping your name in," Scott said. "That’s a risk I’m willing to take."