Miami's Scott looking for breakthrough vs. Duke
Durand Scott's right arm is covered by star-shaped tattoos.
He wishes that wasn't the case.
One is a tribute to his father. Another is for his grandparents. Others are for departed friends. Each is a reminder of someone who has died, and someone Scott carries with him to the basketball court every day.
''These are for the people who keep me mentally focused, keep me going out there and striving for the best,'' Scott said. ''The way I see it, things happen for a reason. They remind me, if you have high hopes and keep your head up and keep working hard, good things are out there for us.''
Good things have finally been out there of late for Scott and Miami.
The Hurricanes (15-9, 4-6) are winners of three straight games in the Atlantic Coast Conference, their longest league winning streak since February 2008. It will get seriously tested when No. 5 Duke (22-2, 9-1) - the defending national champion and winners in 14 of their last 15 meetings against the Hurricanes since 2005 - visits Miami on Sunday night.
Entering February, Miami was in major trouble. Coach Frank Haith's job security seemed tenuous, and the Hurricanes were at the bottom of the ACC.
Three wins later - by a combined four points, no less - the Hurricanes have a much different outlook.
''We knew we were going to win,'' Haith said. ''This team was going to win. You don't do all the things the right way, like this team has, without something good happening. I just believe we're doing things the right way and these kids are working hard. We just have to stay true to what we're doing.''
Miami's last eight games have been decided by a total of 17 points, which is believed to be an ACC record. Included in that stretch was a four-game span of losses by two, two, three and four points, respectively.
It was brutal for the Hurricanes.
And in those moments, Scott - who has averaged 16.7 points in his first three games against Duke, all losses - would look at his right arm and remember he's been through far worse.
''When things are bad, they only get worse when you mope about it and carry yourself in that type of manner,'' Scott said. ''We can't let ourselves do that.''
So they didn't.
The Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech by two to break the losing streak. They beat Virginia by two in overtime two days later, rallying from five points down in the final 39 seconds of regulation. And on Wednesday, they won 74-73 at Wake Forest, climbing from 12th to 8th in the ACC in the span of about a week. Scott had 17 points in the Wake Forest victory, snapping out of a mild two-game slump.
He was in a rut earlier this season as well, when Haith sat him down for a talk.
Scott was 14 when his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and still struggles with that even though years have passed. Haith knows Scott doesn't like talking about it, but decided it was the right time for a heart-to-heart.
''I told him, 'Your father would want me to make sure I'm challenging you to do better, to do more,''' Haith said. ''And Durand got a little teary-eyed, but he understood.''
Scott listened and nodded.
''It meant a lot,'' Scott said. ''For Coach Haith to come to me and have that conversation, bringing it to me in a manner so I knew where he was coming from, that showed me the type of guy he is and what he really expects of me. That showed he really wants to be there for me.''
Maybe not coincidentally, the Hurricanes have rallied around Haith since. And a win against Duke could be a springboard to a big late-season push by Miami, which won 20 games yet didn't make the NCAA field a year ago.
Last season's NCAA hopes ended with a 77-74 loss to Duke in the ACC tournament. Miami will have the chance to erase that memory on Sunday.
''Once we get that break, then I think great things really will happen for us,'' Scott said.