Sept. 17, 2012

By Jeff White (

ATLANTA — After five years in Charlottesville, Mike Scott is still adjusting to life in the big city.

The former UVa basketball star was scheduled to meet some friends downtown here at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Gridlock intervened. Scott, driving a rented Chevy Impala, finally reached his destination around 6:30 p.m.

“I don’t think you really know the meaning of traffic till you’ve been here,” Scott said, shaking his head.

The delay didn’t dampen his spirits. Life is good these days for Scott, whom the Atlanta Hawks selected with the 43rd pick in the NBA draft June 28.

Early this month, the 6-8, 237-pound forward signed a two-year contract with the Hawks for the NBA’s minimum salary, which is $473,604 for 2012-13.

“I was confident my agent would get me a good deal and make sure he protected me, and I’m just glad it happened,” said Scott, who moved out of the Buckhead, Ga., hotel in which he had been staying and into his own residence Friday.

Scott’s contract includes some guarantees, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, and the Hawks have plans for him.

“Mike will be on the team this year,” Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry told the newspaper.

Scott, 24, is one of three former UVa players in the NBA, along with New Orleans’ Roger Mason Jr. and Houston’s Gary Forbes. (Forbes transferred to the University of Massachusetts after his second year at Virginia.)

In July, Scott played for Atlanta’s entry in the Las Vegas summer league. In five games — the Hawks finished 2-3 — Scott averaged 10 points and 6.8 rebounds. But he shot only 36.2 percent from the floor (17 for 47) and 69.6 from the line (16 for 23 and wasn’t pleased with his performance.

“I could have played better,” Scott said. “I shot the ball, I just didn’t shoot the ball well. I didn’t even shoot well from the free-throw line. And then I got a lot of defensive 3-second calls. In college you could just sit in the lane. You can’t do that here.”

As a UVa senior in 2011-12, when he made the All-ACC first team, Scott shot a league-best 56.3 percent from the floor and 80.8 percent from the line. When the Hawks selected him, Scott became the first player from UVa drafted since guard Sean Singletary in 2008.

Training camp opens for the Hawks on Oct. 1, and most of their players are already in town. Scott said he’s been working out with such teammates as Lou Williams, Devin Harris and Al Horford. It’s taken him a while to get comfortable, Scott acknowledged, around players he’s watched on TV for years.

“I gotta get over being starstruck and just play,” Scott said.

The competition for minutes in the Hawks’ frontcourt figures to be fierce, “but I think if I show them my game and remind them why they drafted me, show them what I’m here for, I’ll be fine,” Scott said.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Scott worked out at the NBA combine in Chicago, at a mini-combine in Minnesota and for 15 NBA teams, including the Hawks. Scott understands that his dream of playing in the NBA is soon to become reality, but he hasn’t caught himself marveling at this good fortune.

“I’m not going to pinch myself, probably, until I wake up tomorrow in my own place,” Scott said Friday night. “And then I get my truck next week. That’s when I’ll really pinch myself.”

Scott, who did not own a car during his college years, is buying a Chevy Tahoe. “Nothing crazy,” he said. “Not like a Range Rover or anything.”

His life has changed in other ways since he joined the Hawks. “You meet new people, people that you always see on TV,” Scott said. “Just because you have that NBA logo next to your name, then I guess people treat you differently. Which is good and bad.”

Scott remains close to the basketball program at his alma mater. After the Hawks wrapped up play in Las Vegas, Scott returned to Charlottesville, where he worked out at John Paul Jones Arena. Once Tony Bennett’s team left for its tour of Europe in August, Scott went home to Chesapeake, where he trained until moving to Atlanta about two weeks ago.

He remains a rabid football fan, and Scott watched the UVa-Penn State game on television Sept. 8. The Nittany Lions’ Sam Ficken missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked in the Cavaliers’ 17-16 victory at Scott Stadium.

“I just felt sorry for the kicker,” Scott said, “but then I was like, `We won, so I can’t feel too sorry for him.’ ”

Scott was on the UVa sideline Saturday at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. He was disappointed to see the Wahoos lose to the Yellow Jackets, but he’s pumped about the addition of quarterback Robert Griffin III to his favorite NFL team.

“Look, I’m going to be real,” Scott said. “I’m a real Redskins fan. We did not expect the Redskins to go into New Orleans and win [the opener]. You don’t beat Drew Brees in the Superdome. But when RG3 went 7 for 7 [passing in the first quarter], I said, `He’s a phenom. He’s chosen.’ ”

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