Scruggs has teamed up with Duke signee and lifelong friend Gary Trent Jr. to form one of the best backcourts in the country at Prolific, along with sophomore Pierre Cockrell Jr. and Oregon signee Abu Kigab.
A Xavier signee, Scruggs said his role on the team is to lead and to be the next guy to score when defenses key on Trent, who is ranked as the No. 8 overall player in the nation according to ESPN.
“I’m adjusting real well. The situations they have put me in in the game have been so good for me,” Scruggs said. “Coming here was mostly the best decision I have made in my life.”
During Saturday’s final day of the Marshall County (Ky.) Hoopfest, Scruggs took a leading role after Trent had scored 36 points Friday.
The 6-3 Scruggs, ranked No. 28 by ESPN, scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting with 10 rebounds in Prolific’s 73-54 win against Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix), which was playing without Class of 2017 No. 1 overall recruit DeAndre Ayton.
He won the game’s MVP, which was especially significant for Scruggs because it was the first time he had played in front of family so far this season — four siblings and two cousins were in attendance.
The type of shooting Scruggs showed Saturday is exactly what Prolific coach Billy McKnight said is perhaps the largest improvement Scruggs has shown in his game since arriving in Northern California.
“The thing people don’t realize about Paul is he is actually a real good shooter,” McKnight said. “He can get to the rim so he feels like he is settling sometimes when he’s pulling up out there, but he can really shoot.”
And with Trent leading the team most nights, Scruggs doesn’t need to put up 20 points every game. When Scruggs joined the team in September, McKnight said he knew he was getting an elite defender who has a bulldog type of personality. He’s lived up to those expectations while improving his offensive game.
As far as the dynamic between Trent Jr. and Scruggs — widely considered two of the best guard prospects in the senior class — they are just enjoying the chance to play with one another before they embark on college.
“That’s my little brother, man,” Scruggs said of Trent, who is 10 months younger. “We have known each other since the second grade. We have been in contact with each other and that’s how I got here.”
It was more than just the friendship with Trent that brought Scruggs to Prolific. He said he is enjoying the college basketball feel the prep school has provided — traveling across the country and doing homework on the road.
Scruggs is the top prospect for a loaded five-man recruiting class for Chris Mack at Xavier. After inking Scruggs to head his recruiting class, Mack said he is as tough of a competitor as he has recruited.
“There’s not a challenge that Paul won’t answer. He loves to compete and he plays to win,” Mack said. “He’s a point guard with excellent vision, an ability to get in the plate and plays with a physicality that makes opponents uncomfortable. He has the tools and mentality to be a lockdown defender in college. His jumpshot was a question mark early on in his career, but he’s grown much more comfortable using it over the last 12 months.”
Until he arrives at Xavier, Scruggs is eyeing continued improvements with his jump shot and decision-making skills in the halfcourt.
His 6-10 wingspan is also something that McKnight hopes Scruggs continues to use to his advantage as he becomes an even better on-ball defender.
“The biggest thing is keeping guys in front of him,” McKnight said. “He has that wingspan and he has that length, and when he learns how to use that and move his feet … that’s a primary focus for us right now — guarding one-on-one at the top of the key with no ball screens and just keeping guys in front of him.”