Charlie Scott was the first African-American scholarship athlete at the University of North Carolina when he starred on the hard wood for the Tar Heels from 1967-70. He led UNC to two Final Fours and was named the Atlantic Coastal Conference Player of the Year his senior season when he averaged 27.1 points per game.
Shannon said he remembers hearing about his father’s career from his older siblings Shaun and Simone when he was very young, but it took a while for the magnitude of his father’s accomplishments to really resonate with him.
“I didn’t really understand what it meant until I was like 7 or 8,” Shannon said. “How significant it was and how big an impact he made.”
Charlie’s career extended past college. He played two seasons with the Virginia Squires of the ABA, earning rookie of the year honors in 1971 and setting the league’s single-season scoring record with 34.6 point per game in 1972. After that historic season, Charlie left for the NBA where he was a three-time all-star for the Phoenix Suns and won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 1976.
While it took a while for Shannon to appreciate the enormity of what his father accomplished, both as a player on the court and as a social pioneer off it, his father’s love of the game was quick to translate as he grew up playing under the watchful tutelage of his father. The youngest of three, Shannon grew up involved everything from football to swimming to baseball to soccer, but basketball was the one that stuck. After all it’s the one that runs in the family.
Charlie rarely played against his son, but rather watched as Shannon and Shaun would play, critiquing the siblings as they went. When they did play, Shannon couldn’t recall ever beating his father, though he is confident he could now.
“I’ve never really beat him one-on-one yet. I think when I got to the age where I started figuring more things out, he stopped playing me. So it’s kind of a cop-out on his part,” Shannon said laughed. “I think when I got to the point where he thought I could actually understand what I was doing, he just stopped playing me.”
Charlie’s teaching worked out well as Shannon excelled at Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton High School. He was the sixth ranked point guard and 33rd ranked player in the 2010 class, according to Scout.com.
As such a prized recruit, Shannon virtually had his pick of schools and it was assumed that given his father’s historic career, UNC would top his list. The Tar Heels, however, already had a highly touted point guard in Kendall Marshall and Shannon found a home in Columbus, though his father admits it wasn’t his first choice for his son.
“To be honest with you, I’m a Carolina guy and at that time I thought that would be the best choice for him,” Charlie said. “We talked and he expressed his belief that (Ohio State) was where he wanted to go. That was the most important thing to me was where he wanted to go and where he was most comfortable.”
His son’s comfort was enough for the “Carolina Guy” to move with his wife Trudy from their home in Georgia moved to Columbus to follow Shannon’s career at Ohio State.
Shannon was comfortable with Ohio State because the school treated basketball the same way it was handled in the Scott family growing up: as a family affair.
“I knew the guys that were in the class above me and I had a relationship with them,” Shannon said, reflecting on his collegiate choice. “I wanted to play with them and I knew the environment here was a sort of family environment; I really enjoyed that. A lot of other schools they try to get the player and if they do well, they do well, if they don’t, they kick them to the side. Coach (Thad) Matta just keeps everybody going, motivates everybody. I just liked the whole environment they had here.”
Craft was one of those players that Shannon wanted to play with, but for a while he played behind him. Despite his high school success, the first game of the 2014-15 season will be the first time he starts at point guard for Ohio State, his first chance to step out of the three-year long shadow cast by Craft.
Shannon saw little playing time his first year in Columbus. He was sitting behind sophomore Aaron Craft who had established himself as a sixth man the year before and took the reins of the Buckeyes’ offense in Shannon’s first year on campus.
Shannon played just over 10 minutes per game during his freshman campaign, averaging 1.2 points and 1.7 assists in a back-up role. Though his minutes doubled during the following season, it remained Craft’s team.
Point guards can be possessive. By nature they need the ball in their hands to be at their best. With Craft and Shannon together on the roster the last three years one of the natural point guards had to take a back seat, and for the most part, it was the younger Shannon. Still, he wasn’t about to abandon his basketball family.
“I think the easy way out was trying to transfer, or thinking I should have been somewhere else,” Shannon said. “But I think having that competitive nature and talking to my family, the best thing for me to do was try to find a way on the court. If Aaron was going to be on the court, why not play beside him, do what I can to be on the court somehow.”
After taking counsel from his father, that’s exactly what Shannon did, playing off the ball alongside Craft in the starting lineup last season.
While that duo lacked the scoring punch of many backcourts, their defensive tenacity was virtually unmatched. Craft led the Big Ten in steals per game last season, while Shannon was tied for second. Although he admitted the transition to being the team’s secondary distributor was difficult, Shannon was still 11th in the conference in assists.
Shannon’s unselfishness led to career highs in minutes, points, rebounds and shooting percentage, though his father thinks it may have kept some of his talents from bubbling to the surface.
“He hasn’t had the ability to really scratch the surface because of the circumstances that he was in,” Charlie Scott said. “I want to see him (transform) into a player that can do everything every night. He’s gained a great reputation as a defensive player, and I think in doing that his offensive skills have been misjudged. I think he has good offensive skills that he has not shown because the situation hasn’t called for it.
“I’m excited for Shannon. He gets the opportunity to play his natural position.”
With no Aaron Craft in his way, Shannon is the Ohio State point guard for the 2014-15 season. After sitting behind or playing alongside Craft for three seasons, Shannon will be unleashed in his senior campaign, finally taking the role he came to Columbus to fill.
As a senior with four freshmen on the roster, it’s now time for Shannon to be the big brother.
“The opportunity that Shannon has this year as a senior point guard – he’s proven that he has played some great basketball at Ohio State – I think now is the time for him to be as consistent as he possible can in terms of being a point guard, being a lead guard,” Matta said. “I like the responsibility he’s taken in terms of just his overall presence on the floor in terms of getting guys to do what he wants to do. Maybe he was a tad bit apprehensive with Aaron on the court with him (last year), saying ‘Hey, you do it, I’ll be ok.’”
While his Ohio State family trusts that Shannon is ready to lead them night in and night out, Shannon’s father has even higher expectations.
“When I look at Shannon and I look at myself, I think he has more talent than I had,” Charlie said. “I was a scorer who could pass, he’s a passer who can score. The approach is a little different. I think Shannon has more talent than I have.”
That’s lofty praise from an ABA rookie of the year, three time all-star and NBA champion. Perhaps it’s simply the words of a proud father, or perhaps there is a sliver of truth to it. After all, basketball runs in the family.