#BestofGT: This installment of The Good Word was originally published ahead of Georgia Tech women’s basketball’s senior day on Feb. 23 in McCamish Pavilion.
#TGW: Here’s To You!
Senior Night will be extra special for guards Francesca Pan and Chanin Scott
By Jon Cooper
There’s a statistic for just about everything in basketball.
But there is none that accurately measures the strength and depth of a bond between teammates.
Senior guards Francesca Pan and Chanin Scott have forged such a bond.
It seems like an unlikely one considering they grew up nearly 7,500 miles and an ocean apart, yet is one they built and reinforced over their four years together, have encouraged their teammates to emulate and will be celebrated Sunday afternoon prior to Georgia Tech’s game against No. 17/18 Florida State at McCamish Pavilion (tipoff is at 4:00 p.m.). In what promises to be an emotional day, the game marks the final time Pan and Scott will be in uniform as teammates on their home court — additionally, it’s Georgia Tech’s annual Play4Kay Game, in remembrance of the late coaching legend Kay Yow and promoting breast cancer awareness.
Both have made their mark on the program, despite divergent individual paths.
Pan has ascended the program’s top-10 in scoring and three-point shooting, while Scott endured multiple injuries, including a torn ACL, which forced her to miss her senior season, but led by example with her athleticism, grit and passion. Throughout, the classmates remained as tight as the rotation on a Pan three-pointer and have been as inseparable as Scott’s man-to-man defense on a game-deciding possession.
“Since I came to America we were always together,” said Pan, the native of Bassano del Grappa, Italy. “I didn’t know English; I didn’t know anything. A lot that I’ve learned about this country is because of her. She guided me through my freshman year. I will always be thankful for her. I’m super-excited to celebrate our college careers together (Sunday).”
“We came in together, she’s my classmate, we played a lot together,” said Scott, the native of Charlotte, North Carolina. “Even though I wasn’t able to be on the court this year, this will be a chance to be on the court with her one last time. That’s really special to me.”
That closeness got them through the ups and downs of their first three seasons and makes getting to share Sunday with their teammates and families — Scott expects her parents, both sisters, her grandmother, aunt, and godmother to be in attendance, while Pan has her parents flying in (her brother and sister will make the trip this spring for graduation) — that much more heartwarming.
Scott believes their camaraderie helps define the senior class.
“I think Pan and my legacy as a class will be ‘perseverance,’” she said. “We went through some tough times and I got hurt so I haven’t been able to show my success on the basketball court. I think it’s perseverance and great determination and toughness.”
Their roads in creating that legacy are as unique as they were.
Pan heads into her final career home game, eighth in program history in scoring (1,564 points), and fourth in three-point field goals made (235). She’s one two-point bucket and three threes away from passing legendary scorer Alex Montgomery.
“Alex Montgomery is a superstar. She played in the WNBA for a long time and she was a great player, so it would mean a lot to me,” said Pan, who could accomplish the milestones with Alex’s younger sister, sophomore guard Kondalia, on the Jackets’ bench or on the floor.
The younger Montgomery has certainly benefited from being around Pan’s excellence, work ethic and resilience. Her impact on younger players means more than any personal achievement.
“I want to be remembered as a person who worked hard, who put effort both on and off the court academically and in basketball,” she said. “Just be remembered as a good person, as a person that you could always go to, ask for help and be available for everybody who needs help.”
The biggest beneficiaries of Pan’s knowledge have been international players that followed her, especially current bigs, junior countryman Lorela Cubaj and freshman center Nerea Hermosa from Spain. She was simply doing as had been done for her.
“I had Antonia (Peresson) and, my freshman year, she helped me a lot,” she recalled. “I wanted to do the same to Lorela and Nerea because I know how they feel when they’re here alone for the first time across the ocean by themselves. Anything I could do, even academic-related, if they didn’t understand something, I just wanted to be there for them.”
Pan was always there on the court. As a freshman, she became only the second Yellow Jacket ever to win ACC Rookie of the Year. Her 414 points (11.5 per game) is eighth-best for a freshman in school history and she’s always been the go-to in crunchtime, leading the Jackets to the 2018 WNIT championship game.
Pan’s proved to be more than a scorer, she has a chance to lead the team in steals and free throw percentage for the second straight season (the latter is up to 82.5 percent — she shot .632 as a freshman and has improved every year).
She’s also proved to be more than just a basketball player, as the business major looks to make it 4-for-4 in making All-ACC Academic Team and ACC Academic Honor Roll.
“We all know that we can’t play basketball all our life so having a degree from Georgia Tech with being four-time ACC All-Academic is huge for me,” she said. “I know it’s going to open a lot of doors for me so it’s really important.”
Chanin of the Board
Diversity, similarly, has been the trademark of Scott’s career. She’s played a variety of roles, based upon the team’s needs. That versatility — on and off the floor — is what she’ll take from her four years at Georgia Tech.
“The No. 1 thing I think Georgia Tech has taught me is diversifying your portfolio and being able to balance it,” she said. “Playing in the ACC, you’re playing against top-five competition in the nation, night in and night out. Doing that and then going to a prestigiously high academic institution like Georgia Tech and being able to make Dean’s List has taught me that I can pretty much do anything if I just continue with my same work ethic that I’ve been able to pick up and perfect here. The Athletic Association prepares us for life after college, having proper networks to navigate and career aspects.”
Google Maps couldn’t have charted a better route to life success than Scott has.
A business major, Scott was ‘18-19 ACC Academic Honor Roll as a junior, then landed a summer internship with IBM, which she’s planning on doing again this summer. She has an inside track on a permanent position there after completing her master’s, which she’ll pursue at North Carolina A&T.
Scott’s career on the court proved a little more rocky, having torn her ACL prior to her senior season. But the inability to play didn’t keep her away from the team.
“I was at practices, at film, pregame meals, everything,” she said. “I did everything with the team but play, so I was able to kind of have influence off the court. So I was able to still be with the team and help out as much as I could.”
Scott was as enthusiastic in working behind the scenes as a four-year member of Georgia Tech’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB).
“You are the liaison between your team and the Athletic Association,” she said. “People don’t really know how things operate in the sphere of athletics, so I was able to help inform them of that, answer any questions that they may have and represent women’s basketball. That was pretty cool for me.”
Pan and Scott created plenty of cool moments on the court.
For Scott, recalling hers was a slam dunk.
“When we were in Italy (back in 2018) I dunked for the first time,” she recalled. “Since I was like, 14, I was always saying, ‘I’m going to dunk one day! I’m going to dunk one day!’ I have two younger sisters so I was able to set an example for them. They’re my height, too, and can jump high and are athletic. Hopefully I inspired them. Hopefully I inspired people not in my family too.”
The dunk, which you can see here, inspired Pan.
“It was in Pordenone. It was after practice. I was changing my shoes,” Pan remembered. “Zaire (O’Neal) challenged Chanin to try to dunk. I remember when she did it, the whole gym went crazy. We started jumping all around. We were all just so proud of her. I saw her excitement in her eyes. It was pretty cool.”
Pan’s favorite moment also came off the court. But it personified the “Total Person” she’d become, one capable of enjoying life’s moments, those beyond athletics.
“I remember when we were in Mexico and we swam with the dolphins,” she said. “I will never forget that experience because I don’t think I would have had the same opportunity if I wasn’t here. I will always be grateful for that because it was a magic experience for me.”
Of the many magic moments upon which they have to look back, neither goes back very far. Pan pointed to last Sunday, when the Jackets upended No. 4 NC State, 65-61, the program’s first road victory over a top-10 team, and one in which she set career-highs for points (30) and field goals (11). Scott’s favorite moment also came this year, on Nov. 17, when Georgia Tech did something else it had never done, win against Georgia in Athens, 73-40.
The seniors take special pride in the role they’ve played this season, stepping up and showing the kind of senior leadership every coach craves, but especially appreciated by coaching legend and first-year Jackets coach Nell Fortner.
“It was an honor to be looked at as a leader,” said Scott. “Coach Fortner was expecting big things out of us, expectations to teach the younger players and to be the experienced players on the team. We kind of knew to take it upon ourselves because there was a complete staff change.”
“We were the ones who knew the team the most,” said Pan. “All our team did a great job, Kierra, Lorela, A.D. (redshirt-junior forward Anne Francoise Diouf), everybody did a great job to help the team and the coaching staff to create the chemistry that we are in now.”
Everybody in McCamish will be on their feet on Sunday afternoon for a well-deserved salute to Pan and Scott and the job they’ve done over their four years.