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Magic hopes Scott is its shooting star

It was a glimpse of the future, and the San Antonio Spurs refused to believe it. Small forward Dennis Scott had left school a year early because his jump shot was deemed a lethal weapon, and now, on a prophetic autumn night, he held the ball out beyond the three-point stripe, catering to a whim.

Oh, he was going to shoot the ball, all right. Playing his first preseason game for the Orlando Magic, Scott's long-distance shooting touch was the main attraction for more than 14,000 fans at Orlando Arena, his teammates and coach Matt Guokas. But the Spurs were not convinced.

Experience has taught Scott not to hesitate. There was no hand in his face, so he jumped to find his shot. His body was stable, his wrist was loose, and the shot made the net dance as Guokas leaped about two feet off the floor in celebration.

Only then, when Scott proceeded to score 10 points in three minutes, did San Antonio elect to double-team him.

"That's a shot I'll remember always, knowing my first NBA points came on a three-pointer," Scott said the other day. "To know that coach was really behind me like that makes me feel good."

Coach was feeling better than good, actually.

"Anybody who gives you long-range shooting ability spreads the floor and opens up a lot of opportunities. We're expecting big things from Dennis Scott," Guokas said.

As well they should. Scott led Georgia Tech to the 1990 NCAA Final Four, averaging 30.6 points and 6.4 rebounds during the post-season. He averaged 27.7 points during the regular season, and was named The Sporting News college player of the year.

The benefactor of a 30-point weight loss from his sophomore year, Scott scored 970 points as a junior _ more than any player in Atlantic Coast Conference history. He topped the 30-point total 18 times in 35 games. He teamed with freshman sensation Kenny Anderson and senior Brian Oliver to form "Lethal Weapon III."

"If we didn't go to the Final Four last year, I might have been disappointed in losing Dennis," said Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. "If we had him back, we'd have the best team I ever coached."

Meeting the expectations of others is something Scott has learned to accept. Ah, but to meet and exceed his own lofty goals, now that's the rub.

Scott is 6 feet 7{ and approximately 226 pounds with a genius basketball I.Q. If his mind can conceive, he believes the body can achieve.

With apologies to Sam Vincent, Orlando's starting point guard, Scott wouldn't mind sharing some double-duty in the backcourt. He's already asked the coaches for a tryout.

"They're a little suspect of me right now because I'm young, a rookie. I think, in time, as the years go by, I can bring a little more in each year," said the 22-year-old Scott, who sometimes played point guard in high school.

"It's important for Dennis and the coaches to communicate," said Stu Vetter, who coached Scott at Flint Hill (Va.) Prep. "He has a certain court awareness that can be beneficial to the team."

Vetter said Scott grew up idolizing Lakers point guard Magic Johnson.

"He (Scott) was labeled early as a one-dimensional player. He had the reputation as a shooter, so he had to shoot," said Vetter. "But he can rebound, play defense and pass the ball."

At Georgia Tech, Scott was the designated shooter and worked in tandem with Anderson, an exquisite passer.

"The scouting report says to make me put the ball on the floor. But people who really know my game wouldn't do that," said Scott. "I had Kenny Anderson at point guard. All I had to do was get open and put the ball in the basket."

So far, Scott's numbers label him a shooter. After six preseason games, he had attempted 18 three-pointers _ more than the rest of Orlando's players combined. He was shooting 38.8 percent from three-point range (7-for-18) and just 38.1 percent from two-point distance (16-for-42), averaging 10.6 points a game.

When you consider the equivalent two-point percentage to a three-point percentage of 31.9 percent is 47.8 percent, Scott doesn't appear far off the mark.

"But I feel like I could be doing a lot better," Scott said. "I think that's the biggest disappointment. I'm known as a shooter, but I'm not shooting that well."

Technically speaking, Scott's shot is perfect.

First, the deep knee bend. The right (shooting) elbow locks, the ball cocked next to his ear. Arms extended, Scott completes the motion with a bunny hop.

Good shooting means good jump shooting, and the jump shot means instant points. Joe Fulks was the first pro to display an effective jumper. Fulk's style was widely imitated, and such players as Paul Arizin, Bill Sharman and Bob Pettit became jump-shot specialists in the early 1950s.

Nowadays, every player in the NBA has a jump shot. "Pure" shooters like Scott bring the jumper more into focus.

"Nobody ever said, "This is the correct form. Follow through.' It's something I could always naturally do," said Scott of his calling card.

"It's his wrists," said Vetter. "He's the product of strong wrists and a strong release."

"Any time I catch the ball and a guy's not in my face, I feel I can throw it in," said Scott. "Even when I'm not in the groove.

"If I miss 10 in a row, the 11th is going in."

Beads of sweat ran down Scott's face. Scott, a pro basketball player in training, paid them no mind. After going non-stop for about an hour, he was probably thinking about how much weight he lost.

Or was he?

"My weight isn't going to be a problem," he said. "It's blown out of proportion."

Scott's five-year, $12-million contract with Orlando stipulates he weigh no more than 233 pounds. He reported to training camp at around 230.

As a college freshman, Scott weighed 250 and joked: "No way. Must be the (basketball) shoes." His friends in Virginia called him Legs 'n' Butt, and Scott reached 259 pounds as a sophomore.

By eliminating daily fast-food runs, Scott has kept the weight off. He now dines on chicken, pasta and salads. Scott also does extra conditioning after practice with assistant coach John Gabriel.

"Dennis was a very big small forward in college. He's just a regular-sized small forward in the pros," said Gabriel. "He knows he has to be more athletic and better conditioned."

As the No. 4 player taken in the draft, Scott will earn $1.6-million this year _ tying him with power forward Terry Catledge as the Magic's highest-paid player. For now, he's second on the depth chart behind veteran small forward Jerry Reynolds.

Scott knows the Magic traded a pair of second-round picks to draft him. He also knows he will be expected to produce. Immediately. But he's not worried.

When Scott nailed his first three-point basket against San Antonio, the home crowd gave him a standing ovation. He hasn't forgotten the feeling.

"I think all the attention takes pressure off me," he said. "The fans want me here. The organization did what they could to get me. When I hit my first three-pointer, the crowd went crazy. Knowing that someone wants you to be here makes you play harder and a lot looser."

1990-91 MAGIC SCHEDULE

NOVEMBER

2 _ at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.

3 _ Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.-x

6 _ Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.-x

8 _ at Houston, 7:30 p.m.

9 _ at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

11 _ at Minnesota, 7 p.m.

13 _ Dallas, 7:30 p.m.-x

15 _ Utah, 7:30 p.m.-x

17 _ Indiana, 7:30 p.m.-x

20 _ at Golden State, 7:30 p.m.

21 _ at Utah, 7:30 p.m.

24 _ at L.A. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.

25 _ at L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m.

27 _ at Denver, 7:30 p.m.

30 _ Golden State, 7:30 p.m.

DECEMBER

1 _ at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.

4 _ at New York, 7:30 p.m.

5 _ Portland, 7:30 p.m.-x

7 _ Seattle, 7:30 p.m.-x

8 _ Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.-x

11 _ Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.-x

13 _ at Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.

15 _ at Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.

16 _ at Portland, 7:30 p.m.

18 _ at Seattle, 7:30 p.m.

20 _ at Houston, 7:30 p.m.

22 _ Utah, 7:30 p.m.-x

26 _ Houston, 7:30 p.m.-x

29 _ at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

30 _ Denver, 8 p.m.-x

JANUARY

3 _ L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m.-x

5 _ San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.-x

7 _ Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.

9 _ Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.-x

10 _ at San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.

12 _ at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

15 _ at Miami, 8 p.m.-y

16 _ Chicago, 7:30 p.m.-x

18 _ at Milwaukee, 8 p.m.

21 _ at Washington, 1 p.m.

22 _ L.A. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.-x

26 _ Detroit, 7:30 p.m.-x

29 _ Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.-x

30 _ at Boston, 7:30 p.m.

FEBRUARY

2 _ Miami, 7:30 p.m.-x

5 _ New York, 7:30 p.m.-x

7 _ Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.-x

12 _ Denver, 7:30 p.m.-x

14 _ Seattle, 7:30 p.m.-x

17 _ Milwaukee, 4 p.m.-x

20 _ at Indiana, 7:30 p.m.

22 _ at Minnesota, 7 p.m.

24 _ Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.-x

26 _ at Golden State, 7:30 p.m.

27 _ at Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.

MARCH

1 _ at L.A. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.-x

2 _ at Denver, 7:30 p.m.

4 _ Utah, 7:30 p.m.

6 _ L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m.-x

8 _ Denver, 7:30 p.m.-x

10 _ L.A. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.-x

14 _ at Houston, 7:30 p.m.

16 _ at Detroit, 7:30 p.m.

18 _ at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

21 _ San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.-x

23 _ Dallas, 7:30 p.m.-x

25 _ Golden State, 7:30 p.m.-x

27 _ at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

28 _ at San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.

30 _ Houston, 2 p.m.-x

APRIL

2 _ at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.

5 _ Portland, 7:30 p.m.-x

6 _ Boston, 7:30 p.m.-x

8 _ at Utah, 7:30 p.m.

9 _ at L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m.

11 _ at Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.

13 _ at Seattle, 7 p.m.

14 _ at Portland, 7 p.m.

16 _ Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.-x

17 _ at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.

19 _ Washington, 7:30 p.m.-x

21 _ New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.-x

x-Sunshine Network; y-TNT. WTKN-570 AM and WFNS-910 AM broadcast all the games.

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