The earliest memory Shannon Scott has of the history facing him today was his bedroom motif.
“The walls were Carolina blue,” he said. So were the sheets on his bed.
“When I was born, as soon as I left the hospital, I had some Carolina clothes on, some socks,” Scott said.
He also remembers a letter from legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith that had congratulated him on his birth.
And, most vividly, he recalls the No. 33 Carolina jersey hanging on the wall behind his bed. It was his father’s jersey, the same number that hangs from the rafters in the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Shannon is the Buckeyes’ starting point guard, the engineer of one of college basketball’s swiftest offenses.
His father, Charlie, is Carolina royalty. In 1966, Charlie Scott is the first black player to receive an athletic scholarship from the school. Two years later, Scott was part ofthe 1968 Olympic gold medal-winning team, becoming only the second Tar Heel to play on an Olympic squad in the process. As a senior, he was voted athlete of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and his career scoring average topped 20 points.
Shannon’s older sister, Simone, and his brother, Shaun, also are North Carolina graduates.
Simone worked in the basketball office as a student. Shaun played on the Tar Heels’ junior-varsity team.
But the Scotts were clear who they rooted for when Shannon’s Buckeyes played the Tar Heels Saturday. UNC defeated Ohio State 82-74.
“I’m pretty sure my sister will be rooting for Ohio State, and my brother, as well,” Shannon said. “I haven’t asked them. I know they love their school, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be rooting for us.”
Charlie will, too.
— Charlie Scott
“I’ve always been a Carolina fan, and I will always be a Carolina fan,” he said. “I’m a Carolina alum, I’m a member of the alumni association for life, so I consider myself a Tar Heel all the time.
“But that’s my son. I don’t think anybody has any trepidation about where my loyalties will be. I will be rooting for my son 100 percent.”
Charlie, who turned 66 this week, played in the American Basketball Association and the NBA for 10 years after graduating from North Carolina, and he lived in California for 10 years after that before he and his wife, Trudy, moved to Atlanta. As their children grew, they traveled to their father’s alma mater during summers to participate in camps for basketball and other sports. Tar Heels players were camp counselors.
“I probably played there for four or five straight summers,” Shannon said. “Each age group would have their own counselor. I was a fan of Jackie Manuel because I had him three [years], so I had the best relationship with him.”
Truth be told, Charlie would have loved to have seen Shannon become a Tar Heel.
“Just like any Buckeye would want their son to be part of the Buckeye tradition, I wanted my son to be part of a great tradition,” he said.
But as Shannon’s skill progressed to the point where he would be recruited by some of the best programs in the country, they agreed that it would be best if North Carolina not be among them.
“No matter what I did, wherever I went, it would never be, ‘I’m Shannon Scott.’ It would be, ‘I’m Charlie Scott’s son,’ ” Shannon said. “That’s not something I wanted to go through. My dad thought it was unfair for me, also, so we really just counted them out from the get-go.”
They did, however, seek the counsel of Smith and current North Carolina coach Roy Williams as to who were the best coaches for whom Shannon could play. Both Smith and Williams had good things to say about Ohio State and coach Thad Matta.
“I felt it would be a great fit for me,” Shannon said.
He said he hasn’t rooted for North Carolina for a long time, and he has given his siblings all his Tar Heels gear save for one T-shirt. On the front of it is a screened photo of Carolina’s Danny Green thunder-dunking on a flopping Duke guard during a 2008 game between the archrivals. The Duke guard is current Ohio State assistant coach Greg Paulus.
“I grew up hating Duke,” Shannon said, “and I still hate Duke.”
And what of Paulus?
“He’s a good guy,” Scott said. “Low-key, I think he’s kind of a Carolina fan at heart.”