When the NCAA Tournament began, Rice High School had four players representing the Harlem school that closed its doors for financial reasons in 2011.
Now there is just one.
Miami senior guard Durand Scott is the last Rice alum standing now that Cincinnati’s Jermaine Sanders, Kansas State’s Shane Southwell and VCU’s Melvin Johnson are all out.
“It’s only something you dream of, you don’t necessarily think you’re going to get this point but when you put in the work over the summer and the spring you think all that work would get you to this point,” Scott, a Bronx native, said Wednesday, one day ahead of Miami (29-6) meeting Marquette (25-8) in an East Regional semifinal in Washington, D.C.
Scott initially chose Miami over Pitt, UCLA, Louisville, St. John’s and others, surprising some with his choice.
And after three years of patience, the decision has paid off. Miami won the ACC regular season and tournament titles and is now a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance.
Playing in his first NCAA Tournament as a senior, Scott is heating up at the right time.
Scott is averaging 13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds on the season, but made five 3-pointers in the first round of the tournament, a 78-49 victory over Pacific. He also hit five 3′s while giving N.C. State a career-high 32 points in the ACC semifinals.
His backcourt mate, Shane Larkin, is averaging 14.5 points, 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds, which inspired Marquette coach Buzz Williams to heap praise on both players.
“They’re as good as any backcourt in the country, bar none,” Williams said Wednesday. “Statistically, playing time, defensively. Those guys get so much notoriety offensively that you’re not able to express defensively how good they are.
“Those guys are both pros. I would say probably both long-time pros. They have great intangibles, you can see it by watching them play.
“They play great together. Everybody within their team understands their strengths and weaknesses and when your guards understand that, I think that makes the players around them much better.”
One player who won’t be around them is Miami center Reggie Johnson, who reportedly had surgery Tuesday to repair a minor meniscus issue.
Johnson did not accompany the Hurricanes to Washington on Tuesday night, though could play in the Final Four if Miami wins the East Regional this weekend.
Without the 6-10 Johnson, 6-10 big man Julian Gamble knows he must avoid foul trouble.
“Our game plan isn’t going to change,” Gamble said. “A lot of guys have to step up. I don’t think it’s going to come from one guy, the amount of production that Reggie was giving us and the presence he has in the paint. We have to do it by committee, every guy doing more than they were before, just help fill that void.”
And if they do and overcome Marquette, Scott and the Hurricanes will advance to an Elite Eight matchup against the Indiana-Syracuse winner.
And that would mean a Rice High player in the Big Dance for at least another game.
“Especially with these group of guys I’ve been with my whole career and I couldn’t want to do it with anybody else,” Scott said. “I’m finally here, we are enjoying the moment and we want to continue winning games.”