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CSU’s strongman: Joel Scott’s rise to MW stardom

Joel+Scott+dunks+in+the+game+vs.+Utah+State+Feb+17.
Collegian | Julia Percy
Forward Joel Scott dunks in the Colorado State University men’s basketball game against Utah State University Feb. 17. CSU led the entire game, winning with a final score of 75-55.

If Joel Scott’s on the schedule, it might be a good idea to hit the gym.

Scott has been a crucial part of the physical play that Colorado State men’s basketball has showcased this year. While he’s reluctant to take credit, it’s apparent when he’s being posted up and stands as sturdy as a brick wall.

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“I think you could see the athleticism was no problem — he was a Mountain West-level athlete.” –Niko Medved, men’s basketball coach

That pure strength was what stood out to guard Nique Clifford when he first met Scott. 

“I was just impressed (by) how strong he is, how physical he is and just how skilled he is,” Clifford said. “He can play the perimeter, he can play in the post, so he’s just a versatile guy that we needed on our team.”

Scott doesn’t necessarily go out and try to play physical ball, but he’s not opposed by any means to asserting his dominance.

Scott remains reluctant to take that kind of praise, instead focusing more on just doing his job. However, he still recognizes the physical toolkit he has. 

“I just kind of play basketball at the end of the day,” Scott said. “Sometimes I know I’ve got to assert myself a little more, whether that be rebounding, defense — whatever it is — even offense. … That’s always been a part of my game, just being a little bit more physical. I’ve got a big body, so I can a little bit.”

Oftentimes a team has at least a couple of players whose games go beyond the box score. 

While Scott has filled up his fair share of box scores this season, when he doesn’t, he’s still on the floor making an impact.

“He’s making an impact being a rim protector for us and just showing his presence in the paint (with) his physicality and fighting down low with the bigs,” Clifford said. “He does a lot offensively: He’ll duck guys in just to let another guy score on a drive. Certain little things like that that you don’t really recognize.”

One of the biggest jumps the Rams saw from a season ago was on the defensive end. After sitting ninth last season, the Rams now find themselves as the No. 4 scoring defense in the conference.

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Sure, getting Josiah Strong back and having Clifford transfer in are a couple of big reasons for that, but having a 6-foot-7-inch, 225-pound monster down low who can guard one through five might be one of the biggest reasons for that jump.

“Having a versatile dude like that is a coach’s dream and a teammate that everyone wants to have on their team as well,” Clifford said. “He makes up for a lot of people’s mistakes on the defensive end. … It’s always fun to play with a guy like that.”

In his first three games in green and gold, it became apparent the value that Scott would bring — not just on the defensive end but on the offensive end as well. Scott averaged 18 points and six rebounds in those games, helping the Rams to an undefeated start.

While Scott did go through a midseason lull, he’s found himself bursting back onto the scene, including being one of the most pivotal pieces in CSU’s 20-point victory over the No. 1 team in the Mountain West Feb. 17: Utah State

“We were pretty familiar with him, being (that he’s) from Colorado,” coach Niko Medved said. “His career and the film and the accolades and everybody around him speaks for itself. So he was a priority for us right away.”

Scott played his high school ball at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument, Colorado. 

While he’s a local, the chance to return to his home state wasn’t at the forefront of his mind when he decided to pick CSU. In fact, Scott said he didn’t think he would ever come back to the Centennial State, but he fell in love with the people, and the rest is history. 

“I’ve made some really good friends,” Scott said. “We’ve come together really quick, and it’s been an easy transition, and even everyone in Fort Collins — all the people around us — have been super nice. It’s been super welcoming.”

While there is never certainty when making the jump from Division II to Division I, it was at least clear in the recruiting process that Scott was as close to a sure thing that there was. 

Scott has comparable athleticism, strength and IQ to a lot of NCAA players around the nation. However, the size and speed of the competition was one of the biggest changes. While Scott oftentimes was on the court as the biggest player, he is now considered undersized as a four.

“Usually when you see a guy who’s playing at a great program, at a high level, having to do it every night when the scouting report is to stop him, you can see that talent and that skill is going to translate,” Medved said. “I think you could see the athleticism was no problem — he was a Mountain West-level athlete. It was really cool how quickly you could tell right away, ‘All right, he’s going to be a major player at this level.’”

Scott grew up in a basketball family. One of his brothers, Josh Scott, played for Colorado, intensifying the rivalry within the family. 

But one thing Ram fans can thank CU for is helping intensify that love of basketball for Joel Scott.

“I’ve always loved basketball,” Joel Scott said. “I don’t remember a point where I didn’t love basketball. I think seeing my oldest brother go to CU and going to those games is kind of a moment where I was like, ‘Man, I really want to go play like that.’”

Joel Scott got his chance, and with an opportunity to beat his brother’s alma mater, he again was a pivotal piece with 15 points and five boards. However, he might have been most valuable on the defensive end, being a key part of holding NBA lottery prospect Cody Williams to zero points in the first half.

While Joel Scott has yet to get Josh Scott in any green and gold gear, Josh Scott did have to post “Go Rams” on his social media.

“After we played (CU), I definitely gave him a call right when I got into the locker room,” Joel Scott said. “I had to talk a little bit, but no, he’s more happy where I’m at and the fit I’m at, so it’s all love.”

Joel Scott has made lasting impressions, especially with the people in his former program.

“Everybody loves this kid and loves who he is as a person and what he brought,” Medved said.

Reach Damon Cook at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

Interested in more sports content? Sign up for Ram Report here for weekly CSU sports updates!

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About the Contributor
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

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