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His home away from home

April 22, 1999|By MARK KELLER

Scott sees plenty of St. James in choice of Texas A&M

ST. JAMES - Some colleges will do just about anything to lure a prize athlete into its doors.

With St. James basketball star Larry Scott in for a visit recently, Texas A&M had an ace in the hole - and didn't even know it.

[cont. from sports page]

As Scott and the Texas A&M coaches were eating lunch near campus, into the restaurant walked an older couple who just happened to be ... President and Barbara Bush.

"It was totally by coincidence, because he walked in and everyone was like, 'What?'" said Scott. "The president just walked in. I just thought, 'Wow.'"

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But that was just the beginning of Scott's encounter with the former chief executive.

"He came over, shook my hand, patted me on the back, told me I should be an Aggie," Scott said.

And now, Scott is an Aggie. He signed a national letter-of-intent Thursday afternoon, choosing the Big 12 school over Alabama in a recruiting battle that escalated in the last three weeks.

It wasn't his brush with President Bush that made the 6-foot-6 Scott pick Texas A&M, but he admitted it didn't necessarily hurt their chances.

What did draw Scott to Texas was the "family atmosphere" he experienced when he visited the campus. He likened it to being at St. James, only "way bigger ... way bigger."

That type of family atmosphere is what Scott, a California native, is most comfortable in, and it's what he's played in at St. James. He arrived at the school as a sophomore and brought his brother, Phillip, back with him as a junior. His cousin, Jared Knotts, came to St. James this past season.

Not to mention the almost father-son relationship he's developed with his coach, Wayne Ridenour.

"I love Coach Ridenour. He's a good coach, and he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. He's a real good person," Scott said. "But that's the same way everyone is here. Everyone's really nice."

"He's been family to me," Ridenour said. "In fact, when I called them to tell them Larry was doing the paperwork today, I said, 'Take care of my boy.' They told me I didn't have to worry about that."

The St. James program grew along with Scott over the last three years. The Saints went from nine wins in 1997 to 18 in '98, then hit the 20-win plateau this season.

"He was the centerpiece. He was the attraction for Chris (Acker, Scott's friend from California) and Phillip," Ridenour said. "The fact that we were competitive, a couple other people got interested. But Larry was the attraction."

Scott was a three-time Herald-Mail All-Area selection and made the Associated Press All-State Private School second team the last two years.

And despite what his 1998-99 numbers say (16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds per game), he didn't have his best year.

"Not by his standards, not by the standards we set for him," said Ridenour.

For much of the season, Scott was bothered by an ankle injury that lingered from football season. Scott said his game was just coming back when the season ended.

"In my head, I knew I wasn't playing like I did before I got hurt," Scott said. "But at the same time, I knew that I wasn't physically capable of doing anything about it. Just make the best of the situation."

And watching Scott sign his name about a dozen times Thursday, Ridenour agreed he had made the best of the situation.

But knowing that won't make watching Scott move on any easier.

"I'm not looking forward to graduation day. That's going to be tough," Ridenour said. "I told Texas A&M they've got to get a game on the east coast so I can see him."

Maybe Scott can get President Bush to pull a few strings on that one.

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