Normally, when teams sign new Americans – us, as fans try to find out as much information about the new recruit as we can. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? Can he shoot? And so forth…
For the majority of Reading Rockets fans or dedicated basketball fans in England, Niko Scott was a little different.
Scott comes to the Reading Rockets, as one of England’s more recognizable names, although, it might take you a few minutes to actually remember where you heard the name Niko Scott before.
Scott was one of the stars of the popular TV documentary, Nike Battlegrounds, back in 2005, where he led the New York team to victory over Chicago. The programme was hosted by then-Cleveland Cavalier, LeBron James, who had just completed his second season as an NBA player.
Since Battlegrounds was aired, a lot of the players have decided to stay at home and play in various professional leagues in the States, including New York’s, Cameron Tyler who won MVP in the final game, Ricky Torres and Phil Jones. Chicago’s, Armond Williams had a spell in Israel, but the man who made the biggest jump of all was Chicago’s, Patrick Beverley, who is still on the roster of the Miami Heat, a team that LeBron is one-of-the-stars of.
“Since arriving in England I have received some notice for my time on Nike Battlegrounds. I attended the Nike Midnight Madness showcase at Crystal Palace in London back in August and I got a lot of love for Battlegrounds,” Scott recalls.
“Most comments sounded like ‘You the bloke from Battlegrounds’ coupled with other comments of respect and admiration, which felt good to hear being that I had only been in the country for no more than a week makes you feel welcome in their world of basketball.”
During the series, Scott was coached by Ben Gordon and Lowes Moore, the assistant; Jerry Powell was the coach that Niko remembers well. Jerry was a loud character on the documentary, who barked instructions and expected you to get them right first time.
“Jerry [Powell] was a very tough coach who definitely gets those miles out of you when the tank is empty,” Scott says.
“He was a great motivator for me throughout our workouts and during the game against Chicago and a lot of his methods have stuck with me and will also continue to well into my future. His idea of natural talent can only get you so far and that you have to want it every minute of the day more than anyone else is something I won’t forget.”
Towards the end of the series, Scott got the chance to work-out with LeBron James. A memory that Niko still finds hard to believe sometimes – but, definitely felt richer for the experience.
“Working out with LeBron and having him coach us before our game against Chicago definitely was a surreal moment,” Scott said.
“You first are blown away by how big and strong the guy is and then you witness his explosiveness and you’re simply blown away. He also connected with us which was cool because here he is as arguably the best player in the world but he still is no more than 2 years older than most of the guys on our team. So to say we had a blast would be an understatement.”
Manhattan-man, Scott was forced to sit-out Rockets last two games, due to injury. Games which his side lost in (BA London Leopards, Bristol Academy Flyers), but despite the injury, and Reading lying in eighth place in the league, with a 2-3 record – Niko is happy with where he is and the season has only just begun.
“The Rockets club here are very nice and are determined to help further my career, so it turned out to be a wise decision,” Scott commented.
Scott then spoke about the transition from New York City to London, then to Reading, saying: “London is very much like New York City so it wasn’t that difficult of a transition for me. Reading on the other hand is much more relaxed, which is great during the season when staying in shape is my main focus.
“Reading is very different from Manhattan but is similar in a lot of ways to another one of the five boroughs where I went to school in Queens. The shopping center’s coupled with the suburban neighborhoods strikes a resemblance,” Scott concluded.
Reading’s current position of eighth, for them is unfamiliar territory right now, despite it being early in the league season. A team that just two seasons ago won an unprecedented 36 games in all competitions without a single defeat – winning the National Cup, Trophy, League and Playoff crown in the process.
Their next game, against Coventry Crusaders on Saturday night could provide Reading with the chance to “Rocket” up the league table. (Sorry, couldn’t resist it).