A few weeks back, Colorado basketball junior center Josh Scott was one of 15 candidates to be named on the award watch list for the first-ever Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award that recognizes the top centers in college basketball this year.
A Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and three-time NCAA Champion with the UCLA Bruins, Abdul-Jabbar reigns as one of the most memorable centers in college and professional basketball. In his 20 seasons playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, he compiled 38,387 career points and 17,440 rebounds.
Prior the award’s inaugural year, the most prestigious position award belonged solely to the point guards in the league. According to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame website, it was time for the centers to be recognized for their accomplishments.
“For many years the Basketball Hall of Fame has recognized the top collegiate point guards in the nation with the Bob Cousy Award. We are excited to expand upon these awards by now recognizing the top players at each position,” John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in an interview with the Basketball HOF website. “When it comes to collegiate centers, none have accomplished more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and we are pleased to include him in this celebration of the best in the game today.”
The players named to the watch list include Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Alan Williams (UC Santa Barbara), Josh Scott, Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Joshua Smith (Georgetown), Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Jarell Martin (Louisiana State), Kennedy Meeks (North Carolina), Brad Waldow (Saint Mary’s), Stefan Nastic (Stanford), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse), Jakob Poeltl (Utah), Damian Jones (Vanderbilt), Daniel Ochefu (Villanova) and Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin).
“They’re great players, and any time that you’re mentioned with good players it’s an accomplishment,” Scott said.
Scott, who has averaged 12.5 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game despite missing eight games this season, said that he was humbled to make the list.
“It’s an honor,” Scott said. “Honestly, before my injury I thought it was well-deserved. After, I think I’m not the same player as I was, but I do feel humbled and honored to be part of the first 15 that were mentioned with this award, so it’s definitely an honor. But I wish I was healthier and I wish our team was in a better place, so that way it could be better.”
During his eight-game absence, Scott battled crippling back spasms that seemed to have no identifiable origin or cure.
“Probably a collision or stepping wrong,” he said. “There was just this point in Hawai’i that I’d be laying in bed and my back would just hurt. I thought when we had the two days rest coming back from Hawai’i that it would just be like bangs and bruises and continue to heal up, but it just continually got worse. At that point it was just one of those things like I got to address it.”
In the ensuing months, Scott has gone through treatment after treatment to try to fix the problem. While nothing has worked to completely eradicate the muscle spasms, they’ve helped to alleviate some of the discomfort.
Since returning from the mysterious injury during the Utah home game a month ago, Scott said he doesn’t feel like the same player he was before.
“It’s hard to move,” he said. “It hurts—you know my position is a lot of banging. There’s some days where my back’s better and a lot of days where it’s worse and it does not feel nice to be banging or hit the floor. But in the honest truth I’m just playing through and doing what I can do.”
After the way Scott played at the start of the season, there’s no doubt in his mind that he deserves to be a part of this award list.
“I think when I’m healthy there’s no question [I deserve the award],” Scott said. “I think I deserve to be on that list and I should be on that list. Seeing as I sat out as many games, I’m a little bit surprised.”
But the competition is going to be extremely difficult to overcome, as seven of the candidates hail from AP Top 25 teams: Okafor, Kaminsky, Cauley-Stein, Portis, Poeltl, Meeks, and Ochefu.
“If our record was better and other factors didn’t restrain us, I think I’d have better chances,” Scott said. “But people like Jahlil Okafor, they’re good, they’re really good.”
Scott hopes to beef up his resume in the final two games of the regular season and Pac-12 tournament before the final five players are announced in early March.
Contact CU Independent Basketball Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org.