Every game, before the fans at Canadian International School in Ho Chi Minh City shuffle up off their seats to pay respect to the Vietnamese National Anthem, they quiet down a little as if anticipating something else.
Saigon Heat star guard, Akeem Scott, takes one step forward from the free-throw line and let’s out a booming battlecry.
His teammates — with the fans beginning to join in as the season progressed — follow up with several grunts, as if to get fire each other up.
“Wolves howl before they eat.” Scott says, explaining story behind the phenomena.
Scott mentioning a wolf is no coincidence. He takes a wolve’s mentality to heart. When he’s on the court, his style of play even resembles that of how a wolf attacks it’s prey. He’ll burst into full speed to attack the rim, straight to the point, just as how a wolf would lunge at the throat of it’s victims.
Akeem Scott is a wolf. And he takes that with pride.
“Well, a wolf’s nature is opposite of a lion, right?” Scott asks. “Everybody wants to be a lion, right?”
“[Lions are the] king of the jungle,” Scott then says with a slight smirk. “but you also could be a circus lion.”
“Think about it. You never see a wolf in the circus. The beauty about a wolf which you can put with basketball is, the wolf doesn’t travel alone. He always has his pack.”
When the Heat need to swing the momentum their way, they turn to their leader. Akeem Scott takes the ball and regardless of whoever is defending him, he will attack the basket at full force. Many times in those situations, he’ll absorb contact, get the foul, and make the tough layup.
He’ll let out a roar — or more of a howl — of emotion, firing up his teammates and riling up the crowd.
The Saigon Heat were a team with talented mainstays like Moses Morgan and David Arnold and later brought in high-level players like Maxie Esho and Michael Williams. Yet Akeem Scott was still able to step in and rise as the leader of this uber-talented group.
“It’s just about having confidence in what I do and basically playing hard,” The 34-year-old says of how he has earned his role as leader of the this pack. “First to lead a team, you have to destroy the guy in front of you, which is the opponent. That’s the only way the guys are going to be able to follow you. They gotta believe that whatever you’re saying, you actually can do it.”
“Anytime I come to a new environment, it means playing hard in practice. Showing my teammates that it don’t matter if there’s no one in gym or a thousand people in the gym, you gonna get the same Akeem Scott.“
“I think thats when the respect starts to come in and they start to follow you because now they know this guy’s always ready for war whether it’s nobody in the gym or two thousand people in the gym. It doesn’t matter. That mentality to always want to fight is how you start to lead.”
Scott’s leadership skills and his tendency to make flashy plays has made him an easy fan favorite. The Heat fans mob him after every game, win or lose, and he’s even mentioned fans approaching him on the streets.
That’s the beloved superstar treatment he gets in Vietnam.
It’s not usually the same “warm” reception he gets from opposing fans in other countries. But it’s nothing new for the well travelled skipper.
“Don’t chant my name in no big game or this will happen to you,” Scott replied in a post game interview — after winning the title, the postseason MVP, and Finals MVP.
There haven’t been any chants directed at Scott in the ASEAN Basketball League (yet), but some fans have pegged him as a “villain”, calling him a dirty player and mocking him in various social media outlets. It’s another role which Scott has fully embraced.
“I was raised in a very harsh environment so anytime you become the villain it’s actually respect,” Scott says. “If you watch Batman, you respect the Joker. You know he’s a little crazy but you respect him and I think crowds around the world are the same.”
“I’ve had people put things about me on [Instagram] and people trashing my name. But when I come into the gym, there’s a certain amount of respect you know that you have for me because you know I’m going to give you 100%.”
“Look, if I go to Singapore or any these other countries, I don’t need them to like Akeem Scott and the Saigon Heat. You know you don’t need to like us, you have to respect us. And that’s what this year is about right now. Respecting Vietnam basketball and respecting Saigon Heat in this league.”
“When we get into the playoffs, whoever is seeded with us, they know they’re playing against a very dangerous team. That’s what makes this league very good, knowing that a 6th seed or 5th seed or 4th seed could actually win this whole thing.”
In the final game of the regular season, the Saigon Heat took a big loss to the Singapore Slingers at home. Though they were not the victors in that game, the fans still showered the team with cheers and lined up for signatures.
Scott led the team with 23 points as he tried to mount rally after rally to get back in the lead. Though he was unsuccessful in this particular game, it still is impressive to take a look back at the entire season for Scott and the Heat.
Scott ended up breaking the record for most points scored in a single season with 498 in total. The Heat finished with a franchise best record of 10 wins and also broke the record for most three-point shots made in a game (18) and in a single season (220). It will be the 4th straight postseason appearance for the Heat.
Love him or hate him, you can only have respect for Akeem Scott and what he’s done this year for the Saigon Heat in the ASEAN Basketball League.
And remember: Don’t chant his name in “no big game”. You never know what might happen.