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With his final season winding down, Donta Scott is rediscovering his form

After a difficult start to the 2023-24 season, the fifth-year forward is starting to put it all together.

Nebraska v Maryland Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Donta Scott has received a whole lot of criticism during his five years with the Maryland men’s basketball program. He’s heard jeers from the crowd as his number is called and frustration boiling over when his shots miss the mark.

“Always gonna have people that hate, and that just kind of fuels the fire, to be honest,” Scott said. “I don’t really care what people say. They’re watching me, I’m not watching them.”

From winning a Big Ten regular-season championship to playing under two coaches since, Scott’s seen the best and worst of Maryland — and himself.

In the end, it’s the prospect of success that’s driven Scott during the ups and downs the last half-decade has served up. “I hate losing,” he said. “... I just try to stay level-headed.”

This season has been particularly draining for Scott. As the longest-tenured player on the team, he was at the center of Maryland’s early-season struggles.

Scott shot 39% from the field during the Terps’ 1-3 start and missed a crucial defensive assignment against Davidson in the Asheville Championship, which led to a go-ahead basket. At Villanova a week later, in front of his Philadelphia-based family and friends, Scott managed just seven points in a 57-40 defeat. Two weeks later, he scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting in a loss to Indiana.

Terps head coach Kevin Willard called out his veterans after that game, threatening lineup alterations. But behind the scenes, he held caution, understanding that Scott was transitioning into the role of a full-time small forward for the first time in his college career.

“Everything that he was used to last year from a defensive standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, changed,” Willard said. “And I think what you saw early in the season was a lot of confusion of what he was trying to figure out from moving from four years of [being] a power forward.”

“I’ve played a bunch of different positions in my life, so [it was] more so just knowing with the plays where to be at certain times,” Scott added. “... What I really tried to instill in my teammates is that, you know, even if we’re not playing well early on, our time’s gonna come.”

Shortly after, his play began to trend upward. Since the calendar flipped to 2024, the best of Scott has arrived, and it’s helped Maryland immensely. In the seven games following a Jan. 2 loss to Purdue, Scott has shot 49.5% from the field and 45.3% from 3-point range, averaging 13.6 points per game. He also tacked on 4.3 rebounds per contest in that span.

“I’m one of the better shooters on the team, I just wasn’t being aggressive enough as the coaches wanted me to be,” Scott said. “I just had to go out there and be more effective.”

Michigan State v Maryland
Scott, Julian Reese and Jahmir Young have been the catalysts of Maryland’s improved play.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Coupled with spectacular play from fellow upperclassmen Jahmir Young and Julian Reese, the Terps’ veteran trio’s potential has finally begun to come to fruition, giving them a fighting chance at a postseason berth.

“What you’re seeing now is Donta is very comfortable,” Willard said. “He’s playing [at] a high level both offensively and defensively because he’s much more comfortable in what he’s doing.”

Scott’s five years with the Terps haven’t been solely spectacular, but he’ll leave College Park with over 150 games under his belt — the most in program history. With just 11 guaranteed games left in his collegiate career, his name is littered across the program’s record books.

“I hope people will remember me as the guy that didn’t like to lose, and even on his worst nights, was still gonna be a good teammate,” Scott said.