- - Friday, February 3, 2012

Mike Scott was able to tick off a list of players that he’s been extra fired up to play during his time at Virginia.

He mentioned Tyler Hansbrough, Trevor Booker, Tracy Smith and J.J. Henson — players that can make a young forward’s reputation if he can hold them down.

Next up on that list: Mike Scott. The Virginia forward is the team’s MVP and perhaps the best player in the ACC. He draws double-team attention every night and still finds a way to score double-digits.

When asked what it’s like to join that lofty company, he chuckles, as though he’s still not fully aware of his status.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “It shows they have a lot of respect for me.

“Every night it’s going to be a battle. I know every post player or every forward has an ‘X’ on my shirt, so everyone’s out to try to shut me down or whatever. But I like that challenge.”

It’s one that Scott has risen to meet just about every night. Coach Tony Bennett noted that after a weak second half against N.C. State (he still finished with 18 points), Scott came to practice the next day with renewed energy and focus.

That preparation is what teammates cite, adding that in his senior season, he’s been more determined than ever to lift the Wahoos.

“His focus is unbelievable this year,” guard Jontel Evans said. “Nobody’s going to knock him off his game.”

“He’s just not backing down,” forward Akil Mitchell added. “They’re throwing everybody at him, and he’s finding ways to get other guys open. We know we’ve got to flow through him.”

With no player stepping up and grabbing the spotlight in the Triangle, Scott could be on his way to an ACC player of the year nod. A big test will come Saturday against Florida State, one of the league’s top teams.

Currently ranked No. 21, the Seminoles could switch places with the No. 16 Cavaliers with a decisive victory.

One of the reasons Scott, a Hampton native, hasn’t received a lot of national attention is that his gaudy numbers are tempered by the system in which he plays.

He’s averaging 17 points a game, but U.Va. typically scores just a fraction of the points that more offensive-minded teams do.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell came away impressed the other night after watching Scott score from just about every spot on the floor.

“What he’s doing is tremendous,” Brownell said. “He gives them a guy to go to late in the clock when you really need a basket.”

In the process, Scott is working to lift his teammates through more intangible methods.

“Probably the greatest joy as a coach is when you see a player certainly mature off the floor,” Bennett said. “His game is good, but what I’ve seen off the court in terms of leadership, in terms of caring and reaching out for his teammates, not that he wasn’t that way earlier, but it’s really become a priority to him, and I can’t tell you how enjoyable that is for me to see.”

Today offers a showcase opportunity for Scott, who is on pace to finish the season as one of the nation’s best.

Read more about the Cavaliers at TimesDispatch.com

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