Jack Goodwillie (@jackgoodwillie)
Few players have the privilege to represent their country on an international stage. Even fewer go on to coach an entire nation, where they have full control over developing the young talent a given country has to offer.
Arcadia Men’s Basketball head coach and Philadelphia native Justin Scott is one of the lucky ones.
On February 10, the 31-year-old Scott received the letter that formally offered him the job to coach the national team of Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, a collection of islands that are located west of Barbados and north of Venezuela.
The opportunity came to Scott last year, when he discovered the organization prior to visiting the country with his mother, who originally hails from St. Vincent.
“I was curious about what opportunities might arise from being down there,” Scott said. “I sent a message to the national team’s Facebook page and asked if there was any way possible I could get involved. I got a message three weeks later from the previous head coach and newly elected president of the federation, and he basically offered me the job.
“He was looking for a younger coach to help energize the program and thought it made sense because of my ties to the island.”
The opportunity to be a head coach on the international stage is not one that comes around often, especially in the direction of Division III basketball coaches. The 2013 Commonwealth Conference Coach of the Year nonetheless found himself in the right place at the right time, and views the big break as a chance to make a difference in a place in need of a difference maker.
“It is definitely a blessing,” Scott said. “I think God gave me this opportunity for a reason and I’m going to make the best of it. It’s exciting, to be someone who’s going to help build the game on the island. I like to compete and I like challenges, so it is definitely going to be a challenge.”
Among the challenges immediately facing Scott involve the country lacking an indoor basketball facility. The team has only competed in the Caribbean Basketball Championship twice, in 2011 and 2014. While there are plans in place to build the country’s first indoor basketball gym, funds and resources are limited and because of St. Vincent’s size, the talent pool is not as plentiful as other countries.
The Arcadia coach is no stranger to limited talent pools and will be well equipped to handle the challenges St. Vincent presents. In three seasons at Arcadia, Scott has led the Knights to an overall record of 41-40 (16-13 last season), including its first-ever berth in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Regional Championship. He also coached two all-conference players last season in departing seniors Joe Brown and Travis Saltus.
“I’m going to try to get the most out of the players I don’t know,” Scott said. “I’m looking to overcome the language barrier, but I’m also excited and looking forward to the challenge.”
Scott’s first task as coach will be to lead St. Vincent and the Grenadines through the FIBA Caribbean Basketball Championship, which will be held June 15-21 in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The top three teams to emerge from the group will advance to the Centrobasket Championship where they will be pitted against Central American teams in the next stage of World Championship qualifying.
In spite of coaching players who may be older than him, Scott believes he will quickly win the team over and is optimistic about the future of the country’s program.
“These players don’t know much about me,” Scott said. “I’m 31. I’m a younger coach, and a lot of these guys I’m going to be coaching are going to be around my age. I think I’m going to make up it up with my professionalism and hard work. They will see from the first day we hit the floor for practice that I will be prepared, looking to get the best out of them.”