Junior guard Josh Scott (above) is back after leading the Knights in scoring as a sophomore. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Corey Sharp (@ByCoreySharp)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
Under Justin Scott, Arcadia basketball has developed a propensity for defying preseason expectations.
In Scott’s first year at Arcadia, in 2012-13, the Knights were picked ninth out of 10 teams in the MAC Commonwealth preseason poll. Scott responded by leading his team to the best season the program had seen in 13 years, finishing 16-11, fourth in the conference, and qualifying for postseason play for the first time since 2006.
After beating Stevenson College in the first round of the playoffs -- the team’s first playoff victory since 2000 -- Scott was named the Commonwealth Coach of the Year and the Sam Cozen Coach of the Year by the Philadelphia Area Small College Basketball Association.
That wasn’t the only time.
Before the start of the 2015-16 season, the Knights were picked to finish dead last. But Scott & Co. did it again, this time posting a 17-win season, good for third in the conference.
Scott guided his squad to the conference title game, before falling short to Lycoming College, 78-73. It was the program’s first championship game appearance since joining the league in 2007-08. The Knights also qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament, similar to the D-III NIT, for the second-consecutive year.
Arcadia is projected to finish sixth in the conference this season, a place that’s all-too-familiar to Scott and his team. But the sixth-year coach embraces the doubters.
“People are always motivated to prove people wrong,” Scott said. “I like when we’re picked towards the bottom of the conference because that gives [the players] some extra motivation, extra incentive to work a little bit harder and try to prove people wrong, so I’m hoping we’re picked at the bottom.”
Unfortunately, the Knights’ unpredictably has also gone the opposite direction.
Last year, Arcadia returned eight of its top 10 players (three starters) and was picked to finish third in the conference, but only had nine wins to show for it. The Knights lost five games by five points or fewer points and had 12 single-digit losses and finished next-to-last in the conference.
Scott praised the leadership of his two seniors on the successful 2015-16 team -- John Landro and Alex Cohen -- but hoped someone would pick up the slack last season. It didn’t happen as he envisioned, but thinks the experience of his current juniors and only senior (Brandon Thompson) can pick up the torch.
Over the last two seasons, many of Scott’s players have a couple of different stories to tell: a team that was picked low in the conference and surprised people, and another that was picked high and disappointed.
“Having them go through both of those different experiences, I like to believe the guys see what the importance of leadership is and trying to be better leaders this year,” Scott said.
Arcadia is extremely guard-heavy, with 10 of the 13 rostered as backcourt players.
They’ll be led this year by junior wing Josh Scott (no relation to his head coach) and Thompson, who both averaged between 12-13 points per game last season. They also add two transfers who should factor in heavily in Steve Pendelton (Alvernia) and Jon Lott (D-II Millersville). Pendleton, a 6-1 guard, averaged 7.1 ppg in 17 games for the Crusaders in his freshman season; Lott averaged 19.3 mpg in his two seasons at Millersville.
Several others could see their way into the rotation. Jordan Sanders, a 5-10 junior, averaged 3.5 ppg last year in 15.0 minutes a game. Justin Scott also spoke highly of sophomore point guard Kishan Patel who averaged just six minutes a game last season. Scott also likes what he’s seen from freshman guard Da’kQuan Davis out of Roman Catholic.
The only frontcourt players listed on the roster are 6-5 junior Phil Pierfy, 6-6 sophomore Will Derr, and 6-6 freshman Khatib Cousins from Imhotep. Pierfy played seven fewer minutes a game in his sophomore (19.0 mpg) year compared to as a freshman, but still contributed 10.4 ppg and shot 51 percent from deep. Derr came off the bench in all of his 24 games and played 9.4 mpg, but should have a larger role with the lack of depth inside.
Josh Scott, once again, will have a lot on his plate this season. The 6-3 guard averaged 12.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 3.4 apg. Scott did so by shooting over 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from three. He was named honorable mention for the All-MAC Commonwealth team as a sophomore.
Scott has averaged at least 12 points in both of seasons at Arcadia and averaged more than 30 minutes of playing time. Last year, the junior racked seven games with at least 17 points, including a 34-point outing against Lycoming College where he shot 11-17 from the field and 10-11 from the line. Getting the green light from his teammates and coaches certainly helps.
“It’s even better when your teammates are just giving it to you,” he said. “You can keep going. It’s real fun because the coaches put me in the right position play by play and then my teammates, they trust me to keep going and make the play.”
Scott can score, but he doesn’t consider himself as purely a “scorer.” The other facets of his game are strong, too. He recorded five or more rebounds 12 times and nine times distributed four or more assist.
“That’s just who I am,” he said. “I’m not really a scorer, I’m an all-around player. Just try to make the right play, get the board, push, and just make a basketball play.”
Lott’s arrival could also be a difference-maker for the Knights this year. A product of Coatesville High School and a D-II Millersville transfer, Lott started 26 of the 46 games in his career as a Marauder.
A coaching change at Millersville led Lott to make the decision to leave, as he wanted a fresh start. He and both Scotts -- coach Justin and teammate Josh -- already had a prior relationship.
Lott met coach Scott through his high school coach, Chuck Moore, at the Donofrio tournament in Conshohocken while in high school. Once the junior told Moore he was leaving Millersville, Moore re-connected the two. The 6-3 wing also knew Josh Scott as both played for the Keystone Blazers’ AAU program.
“I tried to do anything I could to get (Lott) here and it worked, so I’m happy with it,” Josh Scott said with a smile.
With the additions of Lott and Pendleton, as well as the freshmen, the Knights are ready to prove that last year’s 9-16 team was a fluke.
Once again, Arcadia is looking to go out and defy the odds.
“We’re hungry,” Josh Scott said. “We’re ready to show everybody that was just a bad year. That was a bad year and we’re ready to show that we’re going to get back on track this year.”