Great (Lori) Scott: Defense, sacrifice leads to LA Tech Hall of Fame
RUSTON — During Lori Scott’s days as one of the top defenders in the country, the soon-to-be Louisiana Tech Hall of Famer guarded the likes of USC’s Cheryl Miller and Kansas’ Lynette Woodard, a pair of four-time Kodak All-Americans and both Wade Trophy winners.
However, according to her former coach Leon Barmore – another LA Tech Hall of Famer – her toughest assignment came in practice.
No, it wasn’t guarding Pam Kelly – a 1984 Tech Hall of Fame Inductee.
No, not even Janice Lawrence – a 1987 Tech Hall of Fame Inductee.
No, not her running buddy Angela Turner – a 1990 Tech Hall of Fame Inductee.
No, not Kim Mulkey – a 1992 Tech Hall of Fame Inductee.
So who was it?
“Whenever we had our scouting reports and game plan, no one was surprised that Lori was going to guard the best player,” said Turner. “Whoever the star player would be for the other team – well Coach Barmore was that star player in practice. You know he could really shoot. He gave her a test and most of the time she came through.”
Barmore might argue Turner’s recollection of who won those battles in practice.
“Well that was back when I could still play,” laughed Barmore. “If she did guard me, it was the toughest assignment of her four-year career.”
All jokes aside, Lori was a lock down defender for Tech. In practice and in games.
Hall of Fame quality.
Lori was a star for Jim Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi, in the late 1970s. In addition to having her jersey retired, she earned numerous honors in high school, including:
- Parade All-American
- Honorable mention Prep All-American
- Adidas All-American
She was also a champion high jumper on the track and field team.
As a junior and senior, some of the top women’s basketball programs in the country made the trip to gymnasiums across the state of Mississippi to see Lori in action, including the Lady Techsters.
Barmore said he remembers his first visit to see the prep star play.
“It was a packed house,” said Barmore. “She was first team everything in Mississippi during those days. She didn’t disappoint. She was an amazing high school talent. Everyone wanted her.
“I also remember going to Lori’s home for a visit. What struck me was how knowledgeable her mother Gloria was about all things sports. She could talk to you about Julius Erving or whoever you wanted to talk about. She knew her stuff.”
Like mother, like daughter. Lori knew basketball. But somewhat surprisingly, what Lori didn’t know about early in the recruiting process was the powerhouse women’s program that was growing in north Louisiana.
“I had never heard of Louisiana Tech before,” said Lori. “I was caught off guard when they started recruiting me. I was like ‘I have never heard of them, so how do they know me?’ My mother told me, ‘People know who you are.’”
Including Louisiana Tech.
Delta State, located in Cleveland, Mississippi, was also one of the premier women’s basketball programs in the country during the time. The Statesmen won three straight AIAW national titles (1975, 1976, 1977) and were heavily recruiting the home-grown product.
“Growing up in Mississippi, Delta State was the gold standard for women’s basketball,” Lori said. “I obviously had seen Delta State play a lot, and I had met a few of the players. That was the standard that I wanted to live up to.”
On her first visit to the Louisiana Tech campus, Lori got an opportunity to compare the two programs as the Lady Techsters were hosting Delta State.
That visit changed the perception and the direction of Lori’s recruiting process.
“The gymnasium was totally packed and that blew me away. And Tech beat the brakes off of Delta State,” said Lori, who watched an 89-66 victory by the Techsters that night. “I was like, ‘How is that possible?’ That really impressed me the most. The fan support and seeing how crazy everyone was for women’s basketball. That was something that I was not accustomed to seeing outside of Delta State. I was really impressed with Louisiana Tech and its fan support.
“I was amazed. I was, ‘How in the world?’ I had never heard of any of the players on Tech’s team. It was a new thing for me. I was like, ‘Wow, they have something going on over here and I want to be a part of it.’ That was the beginning of my eye-opening experience with the Lady Techsters.”
Lori’s decision was a good one, for both her and Louisiana Tech. After signing with the Lady Techsters, she helped lead the program to a record of 140 wins and only eight losses, including four Final Four appearances, three national title game appearances and two national championships.
Lori was a big reason why.
After being the go-to scorer at Jim Hill during her high school career, Lori came to Ruston and joined a program that was loaded with offensive weapons. During her playing days, she was teammates with the top three scorers in the history of the program in Kelly (2,979), Lawrence (2,403) and Turner (2,262) – three of the only four 2,000-point scorers in Techster history.
Thus, the Tech coaching staff needed her to focus on a different element of the game – the defensive end of the floor.
“When you build a team, very few times can you find an All-American willing to sacrifice points and play defense for you,” said Barmore. “We would put her on the other team’s best player, mainly if they were a wing or post. She was a tremendous defensive player, a tremendous team player.”
Lori admits the sacrifice on the offensive end of the floor wasn’t easy at first for the true freshman.
“My freshman year it was tough for me,” said Lori. “When I saw the role I was being steered into, I originally thought it was punishment. I wondered, ‘Why is he always making me guard the other team’s leading scorer? I’m sick of this. I want to explore my offensive part of the game.’”
At some point during that first year, Lori had a conversation with a teammate that changed her mindset and set her on a career path to being one of the best defenders in the country.
“Angela Turner was my roommate,” said Lori. “We used to talk all the time. She was kind of my sounding board and voice of reason. She said ‘He is not punishing you. He trusts you. Obviously you have the ability to do this.’
“I had never been pegged into a particular role during my career. Once she helped me see it that way, I embraced the role. That was me for the rest of my career.”
Turner’s advice was key in the transition of Tech’s multi-faceted weapon.
“She was doing a job that did require a lot of trust,” said Turner. “Most of the time if not all of the time she stopped the other team’s best player, which was a huge benefit to us as a team.”
“That shows you the leadership of AT,” said Barmore. “I didn’t know that story, but it certainly wasn’t punishment. It was because Lori was so good at it.”
“I promise you this, she was very, very valuable,” said Barmore. “I don’t think there is any question we would have had a much harder time winning those championships without her. As a coach, I promise you we did not overlook her value. She guarded people like Cheryl Miller and Lynette Woodard, the best of the best in the game.”
“She had long arms and long legs and she was dedicated,” said Turner. “She was a fighter, and she was a winner. She wanted to be the best that she could be in the role that she played.
“She really provided consistency and someone we could count on. She played a lot of minutes for us, and that was critical. There was not a whole lot of subbing for her. Even though she played so many minutes, she always played hard the entire time.”
Tech had a weapon that most teams across the country – even the Old Dominions, USCs, and Tennessees – didn’t have.
“It just evolved,” said Barmore. “We had Turner on the wing and Kelly and Lawrence were scoring inside. Lori just balanced out our team. She gave us an element on our team that most teams did not have, that defensive stopper who could do more than just that.
“We knew going into games that Lori was going to make it tough on the other team’s best offensive player. One thing Lori was good at was denying them the ball. If the best player was averaging 18 shots a game, she would keep her to 12. Lori was good at just denying the other player the ball.”
Although Lori agreed that Miller and Woodard were the hardest players to ever guard, it was in a game against the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA Regionals that might best illustrate her value.
“I remember my senior year one of my closest friends played at Texas,” said Lori. “From a personal level that was the hardest game for me to play defense. She was a post player, and I think she had around 18 points at halftime. I told Coach Barmore, ‘Hey I will guard her.’ I knew it would be hard emotionally, but you have to do what you have to do for your team. She finished the game with 18 points.”
Lori’s memory is pretty good. The box score from that game proves it.
Annette Smith, an All-American at Texas who Lori became friends with during their days playing on the World University team together – Lori was actually in Smith’s wedding years later – had 18 points at halftime.
Lori shut her out in the second half as the Lady Techsters pulled away for a 72-58 victory over the Longhorns in the regional finals in Ruston. Lori finished the game with 14 points, 9 rebounds, four blocks and two steals – a typical day at the office for her.
Despite being known as a defensive stopper, Lori still ranks No. 20 in all-time scoring with 1,565 points in her Techster career.
“You have to look at more than just her points,” said Barmore. “I guess a coach like myself would know her value more than the normal fan. She could have scored more if we had needed it. We assigned her to the best offensive player on the other team. If the girl was averaging 25, Lori would hold her to 12 or 13. She would cut their average in half, I promise that.”
These days Lori lives in Marietta, Georgia, a place she’s called home for the past 27 years. She works as a real estate paralegal for Smith, Calvin and Corbin.
Her three sons – Sean, 30; Ryan, 27; and Kyle, 23 – along with her mother Gloria and other family and friends will be in attendance for the Hall of Fame induction on Oct. 18.
“It is something I never thought would happen,” said Lori. “When you think of the hall of fame, primarily people think of elite scorers or elite rebounders. A role player – I guess that is what you would call me – there usually isn’t a place for a player like me in the Hall of Fame. But I’m happy someone thought I deserved it. It is an unbelievable accomplishment. I am happy my family, my sons and my mom in particular are going to get to see it.”
Her former head coach will see it as well.
“I am really happy that Lori is going into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame. Here is a player that sacrificed more than any of them,” said Barmore. “When you come out of high school averaging a ton of points and then in college you are asked to focus more on the defensive side of the floor, it could set you back a bit. It never did with Lori.”
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As a New Orleans-area native, Jude grew up a fan of all sports and teams in the area. It’s a passion for the games that brought him into the fields of sports broadcasting and journalism. Whether he’s informing, reporting or entertaining, Jude brings his own special flavor to the task at hand. This Jesuit High School and Loyola New Orleans…