JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The proof is in the accolades, but Taliah Scott doesn’t have time to slow down and appreciate them. Stopping to look back is great for nostalgia, but not productive for focus.
That’s what happens for athletes like Scott, a five-star scoring phenom at St. Johns Country Day and now a two-time All-News4JAX girls basketball player of the year.
There’s always work to be done.
She torched the nets to lead the state in scoring back-to-back years, including a 36.2 point per game number as a senior. Scott became the first non-Ribault player to be selected as a McDonald’s All-American, won the Gatorade player of the year and earned Miss Basketball in the process and carried the Spartans four rounds deep into the state playoffs for the first time. In between all of that, Scott signed with the University of Arkansas — with the bonus of an actual pig in the gymnasium on signing day — and trained her sights on becoming one of the best guards in the SEC.
Scott said that she feels grateful and blessed that her hard work has brought so much success, but there’s not too much back patting after taking a stroll down memory lane. There’s work to be done before Scott laces her shoes up for the Razorbacks. And the way that Scott is approaching the transition to college is like starting from the bottom of the staircase again.
“When you get to college, none of this stuff in high school matters, you know. So, you have to remember that, OK, yeah, I was a scoring champion here in Florida, but when I get to Arkansas, nobody knows who I am yet,” she said. “Like, I haven’t done anything in college. … I got to keep working, keep proving who I am.”
Scott provided that proof early in her career, erupting on the scene at Bolles as a freshman and then surpassing the 1,000-career point mark early in her sophomore year at Oakleaf.
That success meant a spotlight that Scott wasn’t accustomed to. She said that parents and coaches had to prep her for what was ahead as her game continued to soar and points continued ticking upward.
“Seeing all my hard work pay off and getting accolades and stuff, I wouldn’t really say I like being in-the-spotlight type thing. But as people told me, like coaches, my parents, like when you work that hard and you’re good at something that’s going to happen,” she said. “You’re going to be in the spotlight whether you want to or not.”
If it was a bit uncomfortable at first, it didn’t last that way for long. Scott had to get accustomed to the spotlight and the double teams thrown at her. She was a well-known player at 14 and then just kept upping what she expected of herself. Scott spent her final two seasons with the Spartans lighting opponents up. An injury hampered Scott late in her junior season, but she was almost unguardable as a senior. She had 47 points in her final game, a state semifinal loss to Faith Christian.
Scott finished her career with 2,735 points, one of the most in area history, and not far behind former Ribault star Dorian Williams’ sacred mark of 2,780. She said some of her best memories are only partially about basketball.
“The relationships I built off the court with my teammates. Being around them, all the team bonding, especially at St. John’s where I was my last two years. All the team bonding, the relationships I built with them, like becoming almost like a family with them. That was probably the most fun part. Basketball is fun, but also being able to do that with friends and people that I consider my family now [was the best part].”
All-News4JAX girls basketball
Position, Player, School, Class, Notable
F Clare Coyle, Bishop Kenny, Jr.
Career-best season for a sturdy and productive interior player. Average career highs in points (10.9 ppg) and rebounds (9.2 rpg). Helped guide the area’s best team to a state runner-up appearance. Will likely eclipse 1,000 career points next season.
G/F Fantasia James, Oakleaf, Sr.
Four-year starter for the Knights. Career-year in scoring (18.8 ppg) and steals (3.1 spg). Also averaged 6.3 rebounds a game. Scored 1,636 career points.
G Ella Ortman, Providence, Sr.
Helped lead the Stallions back to the state semifinals. Averaged 17.2 ppg during 22-6 season. Had 1,211 career points and averaged 13.3 ppg during her career.
G Sophia Rueppell, Bishop Kenny, Sr.
Led the Crusaders in scoring (11.6 ppg) and assists (4 apg). Shot 41% from the 3-point arc. Helped Kenny go 30-2 and play for the Class 4A state title.
G Taliah Scott, St. Johns Country Day, Sr.
All-News4JAX player of the year for the second time. McDonald’s All-American. Gatorade player of the year. Miss Basketball. Averaged 36.2 ppg, a number that ranked fourth in the nation. Finished career with 2,735 points.
G Kaylah Turner, Oakleaf, Sr.
Four-year starter for the Knights. Averaged career-best 22.5 points, 5.7 steals per game. Also pulled in 5 rebounds per game. Scored 1,791 points in her career and helped Knights reach two state semifinals.
Position, Player, School, Class, Notable
F Nia Blocton, Ridgeview, Jr.: A defensive menace for the Panthers. Her scoring was solid (11.6 ppg), but she altered things in the paint and under the rim. Averaged 12.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game for regional finalist Panthers.
G Morgan Gavazzi, Ponte Vedra, Jr.: Led Sharks in scoring (12.4 ppg) and shot 83% from the free throw line.
C Jada Jones, Sandalwood, Sr.: Huge presence (6-4) on the floor for the Saints. Averaged 14 points, 10.8 rebounds per game. Also averaged 4.6 blocks per game. Headed to JU.
G Abby Knauff, Bolles, So.: Excellent season for the combo guard. Led Bulldogs in scoring (19.1 ppg) and pulled in 5 rebounds per contest. Averaged Has 952 career points.
G Camryn Robinson, Nease, Sr.: Averaged 19.4 points, 3.8 rebounds per game for 20-7 Panthers.
G Nykeria Thomas, Mandarin, Jr.: Combo guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 steals a game for Gateway Conference champs.
Position, Player, School, Class
F Dezaray Bright, Keystone Heights, Sr.
G Kiley Channell, Keystone Heights, Sr.
G Kelly Cramer, St. Joseph, Jr.
G Destiny Donaldson, Ribault, So.
F Charlee Evoniuk, Stanton, Sr.
F Aniyah Fisher, St. Augustine, Jr.
G Ansley Hicks, Paxon, Jr.
F Xaniya Jackson, Jackson, Sr.
G London Jenkins, Fleming Island, Jr.
G Kamiya Jones, Oakleaf, Sr.
G Janai Jordan, Providence, So.
F Kayla Kastor, Creekside, Jr.
G Mary Kate Kent, St. Johns Country Day, Jr.
G Lina Kouchis, Bartram Trail, Sr.
F Eris Lester, Orange Park, Jr.
G Kayla Massey, Ribault, Jr.
C Leandrea McCloud, White, So.
G Terryanna Medlock, Ribault, So.
G Paetyn Miller, Ridgeview, Sr.
F Yakiya Milton, Mandarin, Sr.
G Aja Pollard, Bartram Trail, Sr.
F Madi Ray, Nease, Fr.
G Kennedy Rosendahl, Ponte Vedra, Jr.
F Sydney Roundtree, Bishop Kenny, Jr.
G Kendall Shorstein, Episcopal, Jr.
G Riley Talbert, Bishop Kenny, Jr.
Destiny Donaldson, Ribault