QUINCY – When Doug Scott founded the Quincy College men’s basketball program four years ago, he understood that being overlooked came along with the brand of junior college athletics.
Within the team’s first season of existence in 2018, though, a 22-2 record helped the Granite resist that underdog feeling. Zoom out a bit, and Scott was well aware of what challenges JUCO programs like his would face in the big-picture realm of athletic recruiting.
“I think it has a stigma that we get bad students and that is not the case at all. We get really good students,” said Scott, a Quincy High alum whose 2022 team had an average 3.3 GPA. “It just gives guys an extra year to learn, to grow that maybe aren’t as ready to go to that four-year (school), living away from home. And the financial part of it is huge.”
2018 FLASHBACK:Quincy College men’s basketball hits the ground running
Attempting to erase the stigma has joined player development and the pursuit of victories atop the list of Scott’s most pressing priorities. With members of the most applauded wave of talent in program history now on their way to Division 2 and 3 four-year programs, three of whom on full scholarships, perhaps the stigma’s days are numbered.
“It’s just having pride in your path. I think everyone’s path is different,” said Scott. “It’s not about what level or if it’s a Division 3 NCAA (program, out of high school), it’s really about the people and who’s really here supporting you in where you want to go and who can get you where to go.”
Like a stepping stone, Scott’s group of five sophomores have each leveraged the Quincy College opportunity into a chance more prestigious:
Dougy Alves, son of the Bridgewater-Raynham boys basketball coach Doug Alves, is a Taunton native headed to Division 2 Francis Marion University in South Carolina on a full scholarship.
Jerome Stephens, of Dorchester, is also headed to South Carolina on a full ride, to Division 2 Eskine College.
Damani Scott, of Mansfield, is on his way to Division 2 Mercy College in New York, also on a full scholarship.
Amondee Weaver, of Weymouth, is likely decided on Division 3 Salem State.
And Ismail Fofana, of Roxbury, is staying closer to home, at Division 3 Westfield State.
All have their reasons why Quincy College was their initial destination. Alves, a 2018 Bridgewater-Raynham High graduate, chose to go the JUCO route after a prep school year at South Kent in Connecticut. He gained years of eligibility back from the lost COVID-19 season and as more experienced point guard, having the chance to play as a vocal presence in a high-octane offense was important in the decision-making process.
“Just from being around each other so much, pushing each other – I was really trying to be a leader. Obviously, I’m one of the smallest guys on the team, I’m only 5-10,” said Alves, who finished averaging 15.7 points and 9.6 assists per game in the team’s 19-4 season last year. “Coach told me that coming in, I’d have to be a leader. And me doing that, all the other guys saw it and everyone just jumped on board. We all started clicking.”
Alves said it was in the mid-summer pick-up games that a fast-paced approach would best suit the team’s collection of talent, in particular with Stephens (14 points per game, 44 percent from beyond the arc) roaming for long-distance looks and Damani Scott’s head above the rim for highlight dunks.
“They all worked well together. They all fit,” said Doug Scott. “They all bought in a team atmosphere, team defense and all of that. When that happens, you’re going to be successful.”
“It was a great year. Having those two guys on the wing – Jerome was always ready to shoot it. Sometimes I got mad at him for not shooting enough. The way he shoots sometimes in practice, he shoots the lights out,” said Alves. “And Damani, we had signals where he’d go backdoor (for) lob plays Coach drew up. He was the first guy I’ve ever played with to throw a lob to, consistently. He’d go up and get it.”
With such jaw-dropping athleticism, Damani Scott was one of the most highly-touted recruits in the program’s quick ascension. He led the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game this past win.
“He just thought it was the best path for him, at the time, academically,” said Doug Scott. “You can see the growth in someone like that. From when he started at Quincy College to how he ended, you saw the growth of how he learned how to be a student-athlete. That was Damani’s choice to come here and it paid off.”
Stephens, who scored a season-high 23 points in the team’s campaign-ending loss to Northern Essex on Feb. 26, said he’ll have “everlasting memories” from his time at Quincy College. But that underdog confidence won’t ever go away.
“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder going to a JUCO because everybody overlooks JUCO,” Stephens said. “Just because you go to a smaller school, you can make something happen out of it.”
“We’re about developing to make you better,” added Scott. “If you really want to be a college basketball player and start, you’ve got to fight for it. This is it. It’s an interesting path but people that take pride in it and own it can be successful.”
Scott has his own evidence to back that up. He graduated from Quincy High in 2009, where he set program records in career points with 1,555 and most points in a game with 53. He then attended Massasoit Community College — one of his current rivals — and later took it upon himself to brainstorm ways to bring the collegiate game he loves to his home city.
He was denied the first time in his pursuit to establish a team, but was invited back to start one up after a change of course at the college and years of running annual youth leadership camps. Now, assistants Kenny Nguyen and Mike McGee have helped Scott enhance the program he constructed from scratch.
“The future is bright for us and the caliber of players, so I’m blessed to bring a high level of basketball to my own city,” Scott said. “It’s special.”