Today marks the third installment of "Where are they Now" Wednesdays presented by the VCU Athletics Department. Every two weeks, VCU Athletics will present a release in which we catch up with a former VCU student-athlete.
Today's feature is with former VCU Men's Basketball team member Scott Lilly. Lilly was a key contributor for the Rams from 1997-2001, including in the 79-74 victory overall Louisville in the inaugural contest at the Siegel Center in the fall of 1999.
The Charlotte, N.C., native played in 115 games for the Black & Gold, averaging 23.4 minutes per game, 6.3 points per game, 2.0 assists per game and 2.2 rebounds per game. The 6-1 guard played his freshman season under Sonny Smith (nine seasons at VCU, 136-127 for a .517 winning percentage), then closed out his career under Mack McCarthy (four seasons at VCU, 66-55 for a .545 winning percentage) for his last three seasons.
Scott and his wife Shari are both graduates of VCU and reside in Charlotte.
Below is the interview between Scott and VCU Athletic Communications Assistant Jon Nolan.
JN: What initially drew you to attending school at VCU?
SL: Well Assistant Coach Mike Ellis was the guy that originally recruited me. The thing I liked about VCU was that it was an opportunity to get away from my home in Charlotte, but also it wasn't too far away for my parents to have the chance to see me play. Charlotte and Richmond also have similar feels, which was really nice as I started to look at Richmond as a home away from home. I also felt by coming to VCU, I would have an opportunity to play as a freshman and that was something I really wanted to have.
JN: Did you find it difficult to adjust to the collegiate game compared to high school?
SL: I found it difficult as we got into the later part of the season. I had partially torn my anterior crucial ligament (ACL) the first very day of school at VCU, so that forced me out of all the preseason practices. But I had done a great training regimen the summer before to prepare. My high school team had won the state championship and I took a little bit of time off following that run. Then I worked out five days a week with the swim coach at my high school. He had access to the gym and the weight room, and he needed a lifting partner. I agreed to be his lifting partner, as long as he agreed to rebound shots for me every day. So I worked out with this fear, that I would be playing against almost grown men and I wouldn't be ready. I worked out so hard that I came in prepared as best as I possibly could, which helped me with my rehab too.
JN: You played one season under Head Coach Sonny Smith, then your final three under Coach Mack McCarthy, what was it like playing for each coach?
SL: Well Coach Smith was a simple kind of guy. He was also part of the reason I came to VCU, because I didn't know that Coach McCarthy was going to be there until I got to school. So I thought I was being recruited by Coach Ellis under the direction of Coach Smith with the opportunity to play under him for four seasons. Coach Smith had a real folksy kind of way with all of us, in that he was a real straight shooter and he valued players that worked hard. I was never the most athletic player out there, but I felt like if I used my brain and worked hard it would help me. I think Coach Smith saw that in me and that is something I really appreciated in playing for him.
With Coach McCarthy, we definitely went through some transition in my sophomore and junior seasons. We had quite a bit of seniors in Coach Smith's last season, so we were able to bring in a lot of new guys for my sophomore year, which was Coach McCarthy's first season. Coach McCarthy also changed the system we played, which was something that was different for me. We had run a little bit of his system my freshman year, but switching to it completely was a big challenge for all of us.
JN: What were the differences between the two coaches systems?
SL: Coach McCarthy's system was a lot more guard focused and it had a lot more movement to it. There was not as many set plays, which Coach Smith would run. WIth Coach Smith, we would run a lot of different sets, with a few options off of each set. Under Coach McCarthy, the offense was more free flowing. We would put the ball in Lamar Taylor's hands and let him create, either by passing to spot-up shooters or taking advantage of one-on-one opportunities down in the post.
JN: Which system did you prefer playing in?
SL: That is an interesting question in that the teams changed so much in terms of the personnel. I liked my freshman season with the set offense, but that was because of the guys we had. We had a much bigger team and a more mature group, especially in the post. I would say playing in Coach McCarthy's system was probably better because I played in it over several seasons and got to play in multiple roles, like being a third guard on the court and providing a jolt for the team.
JN: You were there for the move into the Siegel Center in the 1999, what did that building mean to you?
SL: It was a great experience and something I will always remember, one because I was a business major with a concentration in urban land development. So playing in a brand new facility was intriguing of itself from the academic side.
JN: What did that first game and first win in the new building against Louisville mean to you?
SL: It definitely is one of my favorite memories from my time at VCU. To this day my family and everyone I know remembers that particular game. It was a big game for my career because it was one of the biggest games in program history, up until recently. The fact that we opened up our brand new on campus facility with such a great win was really amazing.
JN: What made moving into the Siegel Center so special for you?
SL: That is easy; more students came to the games. You could feel the crowd, because although it's a large arena, it has a very compact feel to it. I felt like when we played at home, we always had a competitive advantage inside the Siegel Center, where as when we played our games Richmond Coliseum teams had prior experience from the CAA Tournament to rely upon. So for us, it never felt like we had an advantage in the Coliseum. It was also great just being able to walk to games, not having to worry about getting downtown in either a bus or the team vans.
JN: When you were at VCU, Richmond was still a part of the CAA, did you all view that as a regular CAA game or did it have its own specialness to it?
SL: Oh no, no, no. We didn't look at Richmond as just another CAA opponent. Between Richmond, Old Dominion and George Mason, those were our big rivals. Richmond had a little more to it because of the city rivalry, especially when we got in the Siegel Center. My freshman year we actually had to play some of our home games at the Robbins Center at University of Richmond. We always felt like because of that, Richmond was looking down on us. So once we were able to really get that rivalry at the each school's on campus arena, the rivalry became a lot stronger.
JN: Other than the Louisville game, are there any other particular games that stand out to you?
SL: One game that always stands out to me was the game against East Carolina where Bo Jones hit the long three-pointer from the other end of the court as time expired in overtime. I would also say playing Colorado inside the Siegel Center because of the intensity of that game. We had played them my sophomore year at Colorado (Dec. 2, 1998 - L, 76-78), and we had them until the end until they came back and beat us in the last 30 seconds. So being able to play them at home the next year and with them coming from a BCS conference was big win (Nov. 28, 1999 - W, 82-78 OT). As a team, we wanted to make a statement and against Colorado.
JN: Is there a certain road trip that you fondly remember today?
SL: Going to Hawaii my freshman year is a trip I will always remember. One it was such a long trip, because we played three games there and then flew to Colorado to play Colorado. Just being together on the road that long together really gave us a chance to bond and I got to go to my first Luau.
JN: That trip for the team was over Thanksgiving, was that ever a difficult spending Thanksgiving in a different area from your family?
SL: That was probably one of the hardest adjustments for me, because I was far enough away from home. Thanksgiving was always bittersweet because we usually practiced or played on Thanksgiving. When we were in Hawaii went to the Luau for Thanksgiving, which made it fun for the team. But other times, Coach McCarthy would have Thanksgiving dinner at his house for the team. It was never the same as going home, but it was still nice for everyone. The players would usually end up at Bo Jones' family's house for a late Thanksgiving dinner, which was a put you to sleep dinner.
JN: You mentioned a bit earlier that you were a business major, was that a decision you made prior to VCU or once you got on campus?
SL: No I had picked that from day one. I asked the academic advisors to put me on the business track when I had my initial meeting with them. I had always been interested in business because my mother owns a consulting agency in the construction industry. There are pictures of me standing in the construction site of the old Charlotte Coliseum, which is no longer around, of when they were building the arena. As I got into the second semester of my sophomore year, I started thinking about the Urban Land Development program. At that point, I declared that my specific area of focus.
JN: You have been working for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund since August of 2010, can you talk about your current position?
SL: This is a life changing position for me. This is one of those jobs that every day you can literally change the world for someone. I am responsible for recruiting students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for employers that are looking for diverse talent. I get to sit down with the employers, the human resources staff and their recruiting staffs, as they are trying to fill their pipeline of diverse talent. I am traveling most of the year. We just had our big leadership conference a few weeks ago and had 650 students in New York City. To know that I had a hand in recruiting roughly 500 of those students personally, then helping them get an internship or job opportunity is an amazing experience. These positions are with national corporations and a number of government entities. It is a very rewarding experience.
JN: With you being on the road, did you get to enjoy the improbable Final Four run by the Men's Basketball program last year?
SL: Haha, I was so overjoyed I actually ordered way too much stuff online from the VCU bookstore. Fortunately some of the stuff was backordered, so I was able to cancel it. I was trying to get my travel schedule changed so I could get to a game, but was unable to.
JN: Did you proudly wear any VCU gear to work during that time?
SL: Unfortunately for me I was on the road recruiting during that time, so I had to wear suites each day. But I did change into my VCU shirts during the evenings. It was neat during that time because people would come up to be and talk about the excitement they had for VCU throughout the tournament.