Head coach Steve Fritz concurs. “Joe has been a delight to have as part of St. Thomas and our basketball program. He is an outstanding young man, a good student, a good teammate and he has worked hard to make himself as good a player as possible. Our record with Joe in the lineup speaks for his playing ability and leadership. Joe is what the MIAC and Division III basketball is all about; young people who are looking to enhance their college experience by being involved in varsity athletics and many other things on campus. He has worked very hard to develop the skills that have made him a top guard in this league and Division III.”
Joe comes from a family of successful athletes, particularly on the basketball court. His dad played for the Minnesota Gophers and helped them win a Big Ten championship. “My older brother Jeremy was the third leading scorer in Colorado his junior year of high school,” Joe stated. “My older sister, Jenny, was the Colorado 3A Player of the Year in volleyball. She played at South Dakota for a year before transferring to St. Cloud State. My younger sister, Veronica, played on a state championship basketball team in high school. She is a sophomore at St. Thomas and played ball here last year. Luke is the youngest. He is in ninth-grade and plays JV basketball at DeLaSalle.”
Home for Joe is St. Anthony, a suburb of the Twin Cities. “But we moved around when I was growing up,” he said. “When I was born, we lived in Minneapolis but we moved to Albuquerque and Dalton, GA before moving to Colorado Springs. We were there for eight years before we moved back to St. Anthony, where my parents had grown up.”
Joe attended DeLaSalle High in Minneapolis, where he was a key part of the Islanders’ basketball success. He spent his freshman year on the JV and moved up to the varsity as a sophomore. He started a few games that season but saw limited playing time. Joe moved into the starting lineup as a junior, and earned All-Conference honors. He helped lead “D” to the state Class 2A tourney. They lost in the first round. “We played Braham in the first round,” Joe said. “They had the Dahlman brothers that year.”
DeLaSalle was bumped up to class 3A for Joe’s senior year. They not only reached the state tourney, but also won it all. Joe was named to the All-State Tourney team. He also garnered All-Conference honors and was All-State Honorable Mention. The St. Paul Pioneer Press named him to its All-Metro team.
Joe joined the DeLaSalle golf team his senior year. “It was mostly something to do and a chance to play some golf,” he noted.
In the summers after his freshman, sophomore and junior years, Joe played AAU basketball with the Minnesota Magic. In his third season with them, the Magic made it to the national tourney in Houston, losing in the second round. Starting the summer after his senior year, Joe has played in the Howard Pulley League, the premier league in the Twin Cities, featuring many Division I players and even some professionals. Joe has continued playing in the Pulley League while at St Thomas, as well as several other leagues each summer.
Coming out of high school, Joe was recruited by several smaller Division I schools and many Division II schools. “I heard from some of the schools in the MIAC, too, but at that time I was not interested in playing Division III,” Joe said. “I looked at Cornell, Drake and Montana State, all Division I schools. I visited D-II school Grand Canyon State and had a scholarship offer from them. At the time, they were making huge cuts in their athletic program. I went to Fort Collins, CO, to visit my brother Jeremy who was living there at the time. I decided to look at UC-Colorado Springs, which was nearby. While there, I talked to the coach for the first time. They later ended up offering me a scholarship and I accepted it.”
Joe started all 28 games for the Mountain Lions, a rarity for a freshman. He averaged 10.3 points per game, and was one of the top scoring freshmen in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. He helped UC-CS to a 16-12 overall record; they were 9-10 in RMAC play, finishing third in the conference’s Eastern Division. They earned a berth in the RMAC playoffs for only the second time in school history.
While he loved being in Colorado Springs, Joe was less than thrilled with UC-CS. “Colorado Springs is beautiful, but the school was small,” he recalled. “I didn’t feel I was getting the college experience I wanted. I felt I was wasting my time there.” Joe and the coaching staff had a difference in philosophy about the game, which added to his unhappiness.
He had kept in touch with Teddy Archer, a teammate at DeLaSalle for four years. “Teddy was telling me how much he was enjoying being at St. Thomas, and about the basketball team and its success, and that got me thinking,” Joe said. “I knew they had a strong, deep and successful program. I looked at the school and liked what I saw. I contacted the coaching staff, talked to some players and alumni, and everything sounded great. I wanted to be part of the success, and it sounded like St. Thomas would give me the college experience I wanted outside of ball.”
Sporting a completely new starting lineup, the Tommies raced to a 17-3 record in MIAC play, capturing their third consecutive league title. Joe was named to the All-MIAC First Team. He led the league in three-pointers made and was ninth in scoring, hitting at a 16.15 ppg clip. He ranked among the league leaders in steals, field goal accuracy, three-point accuracy and blocked shots. UST won the MIAC Playoffs, defeating Bethel (69-68) and Gustavus (76-73) to advance to the NCAA Division III playoffs. They were upset by Buena Vista, 72-70, in the opening round to close the year 23-5. Joe was UST’s leading scorer, averaging 15.9 points a game.
Last year, the Tommies returned their entire starting lineup as well one of the deepest and most talented rosters in school history. They became the second team to go undefeated in MIAC play since the league expanded the season to 20 games, and rolled through their regular season schedule unblemished. In the MIAC playoffs, they crushed Gustavus 90-50 and beat Bethel 68-51 for the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs. UST was ranked No. 1 in the nation by d3hoops.com for the final month of the season.
Seeded second in the “Bracket of Death,” a region that contained seven of the top 10 ranked teams in the nation, the Tommies rolled to the Elite Eight, beating Aurora (96-73), UW-Steven’s Point (53-50) and Puget Sound (86-69) before falling to defending champion Washington University, 79-64 (Wash U would go on to repeat as NCAA champions). The Tommies’ magical season ended with a 30-1 record, the best in school history.
“I’m not sure I have ever heard a crowd erupt the way they did for Joe’s reverse dunk to seal our NCAA victory over UW Stevens Point last season,” recalled Tauer. “That was the final UST basket in Schoenecker Arena, quite an exclamation point to a gym that provided so many exciting times.”
Joe was named MIAC Player of the Year as well as First Team All-MIAC. He led the league in three-pointers made and tied for the lead in steals. He ranked ninth in the conference in scoring (13.0 ppg), and was among the league leaders in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists-to-turnovers. Joe led UST in scoring with an average of 13.4 points per game. He was named Third Team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
In UST’s regular season finale, Joe moved into 10th among UST’s all-time leading scorers with 1,417 points in his career. Depending how well UST does in the postseason, Joe could finish his career in eighth place. In Joe’s three seasons, UST has gone 56-4 in MIAC play and is 76-8 overall.
One of the keys to the Tommies’ success has been the guard tandem of Joe and Tyler Nicolai. The duo has started 84 together and UST is 76-8 in that stretch. Nicolai is appreciative of having a backcourt mate like Joe. “Playing with Joe is a dream come true for a point guard,” he said. “Playing with someone who is so talented on offense and can shoot the ball so well, it makes my life a lot easier. More important than his shooting ability is his work ethic and competitiveness. He hates to lose. That competitive nature shows up in our overall record playing together, as we both hate losing. Playing so many games together we have a trust and comfort level in each other, we expect to go out, compete, and win. Joe truly loves the game of basketball and that mentality rubs off on younger players. Three seasons playing together, we both know what each other is going to do on the court, so to find chemistry with someone else next year is going to be hard. Hopefully we can keep this season going as long as possible because I'm not ready to be done playing with a player like him yet.”
One aspect of his game that Joe has worked hard on through the years is his defensive play. “When I got to high school, I couldn’t guard a chair,” he said. His hard work has paid off, as Joe is recognized as one of the top defensive players in the MIAC.
This is no surprise to Archer, who has been teammates with Joe since ninth-grade. “What I really appreciate about Joe is his love for defense,” he said. “When we first started playing together eight years ago freshman year in high school he didn't know what defense was. Joe has become an excellent defender and has helped me a lot with my help-side defense.”
Archer added with a smile “There was one time in the pregame huddle Joe yelled ‘Hey I don't know about you guys but I'm trying to get a shutout!’ The very first play Joe gives up a three-pointer.”
Off the court, Joe has been involved in a program with the UST basketball team volunteering to read at area elementary schools and helping kids with their reading skills. He has volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a program that packages meals to be sent to starving children in more than 60 nations worldwide. Joe also has given of his time at Hoop-A-Thon, an annual fundraiser for Huntington’s disease, put on by the family of former UST teammate B.J. Viau.
“Joe is what the MIAC and Division III basketball is all about; young people who are looking to enhance their college experience by being involved in varsity athletics and many other things on campus,” stated Coach Fritz. “When Joe graduates, he will combine the education he has earned in the classroom with many great experiences gained from being a part of our basketball program and other campus activities. We are proud of Joe’s accomplishments.”
Joe is a Business Management major, with a 3.33 GPA and will graduate in May. His short-term post-collegiate goal is to continuing playing basketball. “I would love to play basketball overseas or even in South America,” he said. “There's most likely going to be a tryout in order for me to get to play. I want to keep playing for as long as I can.”
After that, Joe is considering joining the military. He also is looking at options in the business community and he has thoughts of one day opening a business of his own. Coaching is another possibility for him.
“Joe has helped lead us to tremendous success the past three seasons,” Tauer said. “His individual accomplishments on the court (All-American, MIAC MVP, 1,000 point scorer) are impressive, but the real success is the numbers his teams have put up during his time at UST. Whether it is conference championships, playoff championships or a No. 1 ranking in the nation last year, Joe has left an indelible mark on UST’s program. Joe Scott is a tremendous player and person – it has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to coach him the past three seasons.”
[Photos are courtesy of the University of St Thomas Sports Information Office.]
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.
This feature will be included in the "Profiles of Excellence 2009-2010" book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s "Mapping the MIAC" columnist Rich Mies.