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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Living well with Livengood

Scotty Livengood is leading the GSL in scoring at 18.1 points per game. 
 (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)

The list of things Scotty Livengood is not as a basketball player is long.

He’s not flamboyant. He’s not vocal. He’s not egotistical. He’s not impressively strong, tall or quick.

The list of things Livengood is as a basketball player is short.

He’s a player, a coach’s ultimate compliment.

Up until Tuesday night, this Rogers player was the Greater Spokane League’s leading scorer.

But, if you watch Livengood play, your first question might be, how?

Just watching him warm up it’s clear he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a scorer. He doesn’t seem to have the scorer’s mentality, to use a cliché.

It’s obvious he’s not a me-first guy. A shoot-first, ask-questions-later guy. Not a chest-thumping, look-at-me guy.

Then the game starts. Thirty-two minutes of basketball later, you have your answer.

On Tuesday night the Pirates hosted Mt. Spokane. The Wildcats put an experienced, tall squad on the court and came in confident, built by a 67-36 non-league win over Rogers earlier this year.

But this isn’t the same Pirate team. Thirteen games in, coach Brian Kissinger is beginning to see his young team jell, though the won-loss record hasn’t reflected it yet. They break the pregame huddle and take their spots on the center circle with 6-foot-8 Levi Horn jumping and Livengood behind him.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Livengood was playing the 3, a wing spot. But the coaches wanted to get the ball inside more, so the 6-3 sophomore moved inside to the 4, teaming with Horn on a high-low attack.

“We try to feature him, to be honest, we run that high-low stuff to try to get him isolated on the low post and the high post,” Kissinger said, and, as if to illustrate the point, on their first possession, the Pirates try to get the ball inside to Livengood.

The angle of the pass isn’t the best, however, and it trickles off his hands and out of bounds. He wipes his palms and runs down court.

A little more than a minute later, Livengood jumps into a passing lane, makes a steal and races downcourt. The finish? A picture-perfect layup. No dunk, no jump-into-the defender-to-make-it-look-harder shot. The Pirates trail 3-2.

The basic facts about Livengood are surprising. He’s a 16-year-old sophomore. He’s a good student who said he has a 4.0 grade-point average this semester. He quarterbacked the Rogers football team this fall and will pitch for the baseball team this spring.

On a young Rogers squad that is 0-5 in league but 2-11 overall, he’s averaging 18.1 points a game in GSL play and 18.9 overall.

Halfway through the first quarter, Horn picks up his second foul and heads to the bench.

Without the highly recruited tight end filling the middle, Livengood’s game must change.

“When he’s in there, it really helps me,” Livengood said. “He takes the other team’s big man off me.”

Just before the foul, Horn had done just that, drawing 6-5 Edwin Miller to the high post and dumping the ball inside the Livengood, who scored his fourth point. But the last 4 minutes of the quarter are dry, until, with 23 seconds left, Livengood gets the ball down low and draws contact. His two free throws draw the Pirates to within 17-12.

“He’s a smart kid and really knows how to use his body, and I wish I could take credit for it, but I’m not about to because that’s just something that he’s learned coming up,” Kissinger said.

Livengood uses that control on almost every possession in the second quarter, working the angles around the basket to score a layin and twice getting to the line (where he hits one of two both times).

“He’s pretty tough, he gets hit a lot and he doesn’t complain,” Kissinger said. “The most you’ll get out of him is he’ll look at an official and shrug his shoulders.

“I keep telling these guys, it’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play.”

When the Pirates go to a small lineup, Livengood pops to the corner and buries a three, part of a run that earns Rogers a 25-all tie at half.

“You could call me a gym rat,” Livengood said when asked about his smooth shooting stroke. “I try to shoot as often as I can. When I change sports, the first week I’m really rusty, but it comes off pretty quick.”

At halftime, Kissinger gets into the sophomore – one of four the Pirates play – about his high post play, telling him he’s just taking up space. A minute into the second half, Livengood forces a bad shot – from the high post. The Wildcats’ Curtis Justice, who works hard all night guarding Livengood when Mt. Spokane plays man, gets a hand on the shot. He also shut out Livengood for the rest of the quarter, until, with 6 seconds left, Livengood catches a pass at the high post, turns and buries the 15-footer. It’s 37-31 Mt. Spokane.

The Pirates cut the lead to four at one point, but, despite Livengood scoring on a great catch in the post and an impressive jumper over Justice in the lane, they can’t get closer. After the jumper, Livengood goes the final 4:43 without shooting as the Wildcats pull away to a 50-43 win.

It’s not lack of effort that keeps Livengood from scoring. It’s Mt. Spokane’s defense, especially Justice. And it’s …

“In some respects he’s hit the wall a little bit,” Kissinger said. “He’s a young guy and people have just focused on him and they’re very physical with him. I told him he’s got to expect that, and he understands it. He was a little tired tonight and, jeez, he still had 19.”

What about next year?

“He needs to be a double-double guy next year, that’s an expectation,” Kissinger said, adding that as Livengood works hard at getting stronger and gets bigger, he will meet those expectations.

Of all the things Livengood is not, Kissinger sees one thing he is.

“He’s a young man of integrity and his parents have integrity,” the coach said.

“As good an athlete as he is, it’s a better compliment what type of kid he is. He doesn’t want to be perceived as selfish, he doesn’t want to hog the limelight … he just has integrity.”