On his big right hand he wore the bulky, glittering Elite Eight ring that he and the rest of the University of Dayton players recently had received, but he admitted that much of the rest of his Flyers’ basketball identity has been stripped away from him the past few months:
“Every day that I go do my community service, I drive by campus, but it’s like there’s a big electric fence right there. I can’t get across it. I can’t drive over and see how my guys are doing.”
Devon Scott is a Dayton Flyer in exile.
A little over four months ago, the 6-foot-9 forward — like the rest of his team — was the toast of the campus. The Flyers’ unexpected run through the NCAA Tournament had enlivened the basketball program, the school, the whole city.
Then late on the night of April 1, everything changed for him.
An ongoing argument with his longtime girlfriend, Keonna Austin — who is the mother of his young son Devon Jr. — began intensifying.
According to Austin, Devin Oliver, who shared the Caldwell Street apartment with Scott, tried unsuccessfully to mediate. When that didn’t work, Scott had Oliver take Devon Jr. down to Matt Kavanaugh’s room so the little boy “didn’t experience this.”
That was the one thing Keonna and Devon agreed upon.
“We don’t like to argue in front of him too much because they remember that,” Austin said.
Soon after, the spat escalated and spilled from the apartment to the street.
“I didn’t want any damage to come to my room or anything like that, so I ended up picking her up and carrying her outside,” Scott said.
The scene was not pretty or gentle and it certainly was not quiet.
“Somebody upstairs heard us arguing and called the (campus) police,” Scott said.
An ambulance arrived, too, but Austin said it was unnecessary.
Police charged Scott with domestic violence and assault. Soon after, he was suspended from the UD basketball team.
Both of the first-degree misdemeanor charges are still pending — after several continuances, pretrial is scheduled for Aug. 25 — and his basketball ban is still in place.
Up until now, the couple has never spoken publicly about the incident.
But over the past week — in a series of conversations we’ve had — Devon and Keonna talked about what happened that night, why it happened and what they — Scott specifically — are trying to do about it now.
Both said the charges are misleading.
“There was no hitting,” Austin said. “He didn’t punch me. Because he’s bigger than me, he can lift me up and that’s what happened. But there was no domestic violence, not the kind you think of, and there was no assault.
Scott agreed, in part:
“In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done what I did. I should have just walked away. I was wrong to take her outside.”
The university agreed and Scott said a review by a board of students, professors and administrators decided on the suspension. Although he said he did work at the Flyers’ basketball camps in June, he’s been excluded from all other activities involving the team this summer.
He no longer lives with the other non-freshmen players at the Caldwell Street apartments, but instead shares a one-room apartment with Keonna and Devon Jr. near the Greene Town Center in Beavercreek.
Two lawyers are handling his situation:
Dwight Washington — thanks to a request from an attorney friend in Columbus who is a longtime acquaintance of the Scott family — has helped make sure the suspended Flyer’s academic affairs are in order.
And attorney Michael Wright is handling the legal matters. The hope is to get the charges reduced and, to that end, Scott is doing what he can to rebuild his relationship with Keonna and, in the process, learn how to deal with stress and disputes before they turn into a domestic confrontation.
He said he’s been seeing a counselor at UD and he approached the Artemis Center — the downtown Dayton facility that provides support and information for victims of domestic violence and their children — to do volunteer work.
“Because he has charges pending, we told him we would not allow him to volunteer. We don’t allow that for anyone in that situation,” said Judy Strnad, the Artemis executive director. “Instead, our administrative team chose to provide Devon with extensive domestic violence training.”
Scott said he embraced that idea fully:
“I think it’s a good place for me to go. It’s mostly for women, so what better place could there be to learn about this from a women’s point of view?”
‘Butting heads all day’
They showed up at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop at The Greene the other day with their 6-month-old son, a chubby, joyful little fellow who — newly curious about the world around him — wants to touch everything and, if possible, give it a good gumming as he awaits the arrival of his bottom teeth.
“I’m still learning all the Daddy’s stuff,” Scott said, as he watched son and then nodded knowingly. “But I had changed diapers before this, back on my little sister.”
And with that he scooped up his son, grabbed the diaper bag and headed to the restroom.
Keonna — hearing her baby’s tiny cries from the restroom the way a dog can hear a silent whistle — shook her head, then finally shifted her thoughts to the beginning of her three-year relationship with Devon.
“I’d see him sometimes at basketball games,” she said. “I was a cheerleader at Westerville and he played for (Columbus) North. We had mutual friends who finally introduced us.”
She ended up going to the University of Cincinnati — she’ll graduate in May with a degree in early childhood development — and he came to UD in the fall of 2012 on a basketball scholarship.
This past Feb.2 — the day the Flyers played George Washington at UD Arena — Keonna gave birth to their 19½-inch son at Miami Valley Hospital. Devon skipped the game and was at her side.
In the weeks after, they posted every giddy exploit of parenthood on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. And little Devon finally attended his first Dayton game on March 8, the Flyers’ regular-season finale at UD Arena, where his dad had two points and two rebounds.
After that, the little boy was in the stands for the Flyers’ first two NCAA Tournament games in Buffalo and their next two in Memphis, where — after UD’s Sweet Sixteen victory over Stanford — his dad became the image of Flyers’ pride when an AP photographer snapped a shot of him walking proudly off the court with his right arm raised to the celebrating crowd, and his left wrapped around grinning teammate Scoochie Smith.
That photo ran in newspapers across the nation.
Five days later — and just three after the Elite Eight loss to Florida — the good times ended for Scott with a heated argument.
“We had been butting heads all day,” Keonna said.
She remembered bumping into something when they went out to lunch and nearly tipping the stroller: “(Devon) kind of got upset and said, ‘You gotta watch what you’re doing with him.’ We went back and forth arguing about that and then it just spun to other stuff as the day went on.
“I was upset he was gonna go play basketball. I said, ‘You just got out of the season, you don’t need to go play basketball.’ … Since the baby’s come, we’ve had more arguments, I think. More tension. I want him to be more hands-on. I know he’s got a lot on his plate, but that day words went from words and it just escalated.”
Once the dispute spilled outside and campus police showed up, Keonna said, “I knew everything was gonna change.
“It was a situation that should have stayed between me and him, but because we were on school premises, it got bigger than it was. If it was just another student, not a basketball player, it wouldn’t have gone this far.
“But they had just gotten out of the season and they had gone on this long run and there was so much attention on them. It got blown out of proportion by people on (social media.) He wasn’t arrested, put in handcuffs or taken to jail, but that’s not the way it went out.”
The incident didn’t get picked up by mainstream media for nearly a week, but when it did — especially after the UD suspension was announced — reports went nationwide.
Scott drew inward. He finished the school term, moved in with Keonna and Devon Jr. and found himself prohibited from activities with his teammates.
Although he said he hears regularly from Jordan Sibert and Jalen Robinson — “They just want to know how I’m doing,” he said — he’s heard nothing from several other Flyers.
He’s been going back and forth to Columbus to play pick-up games with college and pro players from the area, has been helping to raise his son and, mostly, he’s just been learning how to live with Keonna.
Last Sunday they went to the Ohio State Fair together. Before that, they spent time in Newport, Ky., along the Ohio River. And, of course, there are trips to visit family in Columbus.
While the two will never be mistaken for milquetoast Ozzie and Harriet, they aren’t the combustible Ike and Tina Turner either.
“This has given us an opportunity to really learn our relationship and grow and get comfortable with each other,” Scott said. “We’re in a close-quarters setting with our son — just one bedroom — and it can be stressful, but we’re learning to deal with it the right way.”
Austin agreed: “We already know what not to do, so we stop now so it doesn’t get that far. Our relationship was fun before and it still is.”
In separate interviews they each were asked about their dreams for a few years from now.
Scott talked about pro basketball and a healthy son following in his footsteps. Austin talked about being happily married and “maybe more like four or five years from now,” having a second child on the way.
While the scenarios may differ, they have one thing in common.
Both dreams were jeopardized by the April Fools’ Day incident.
‘Everything can be taken from you’
As Scott sat and talked the other day, his son — who was sitting in his lap — reached out and grabbed hold of that walnut-sized tournament ring.
“It’s something I’ll be able to hand down to him one day,” Scott said. “You have the memory of the season in your head, but this is something physical you can take with you the rest of your life. And when I look at it, it means a lot.
“It’s something of a legacy for us. UD hadn’t gone that far in the tournament in 30 years. People said they hadn’t seen Dayton light up like that in a long, long time. Everyone had such a feeling of togetherness. For the rest of my life I’ll know I was a part of that and no one can ever take that away from me.”
And yet he now has come to realize much of the rest of his UD experience could be forfeited.
“I’ve come to realize just how fragile this opportunity is,” he said quietly. “It’s brought me crashing back to reality and I know if you mess up bad enough, everything can be taken from you.”
As the other Flyers players have come together on campus during this second summer session, he has been excluded and that, he said, left him with plenty of questions:
“My biggest question was, ‘Am I going to be able to stay on the team?’ And I wondered, ‘Does Archie (head coach Archie Miller) still want me on the team?’ And if and when I did come back, ‘How would I be treated?’
“From the outside looking in, it seems like Archie still wants me. It’s not like he recruited over me. And I think if he didn’t want me, he’s enough of a straight shooter that he’d tell me.
“Not to throw dirt on anybody’s name, but I know how he was straight with Ralph Hill. Ralph’s from Columbus, too, and I knew him before college. When he left here (for Oakland University), he told me Archie had talked to him and told him he wasn’t going to get minutes.
“Archie did that with someone who wasn’t in any trouble. I think if he wanted me gone, he’d tell me to go … And then I would.”
As Miller put it the other day: “My hope is that Devon will be with us in the fall. First, though, he has to handle his legal situation and, from a student standpoint, he has had to make sure he’s in good standing academically — which he is.
“The biggest thing, though, is that he has to deal with his family situation and to do that, I thought it was important he step away from basketball for a good period of time. I told him basketball isn’t important now. He had to get his life in order.”
That’s why Scott approached the Artemis Center and from what he has been learning there, he said he wants to go and speak to Dayton-area teenagers and other UD athletes about the issues of domestic violence.
“We want him to be an ambassador,” Strnad said. “We think it’s important to take his story out to others.”
And what would he say?
“I’ve been working on my speech for a couple of weeks,” he said. “Honestly, the whole gist is ‘Don’t make the mistakes I did.’ I’d tell them to just walk away when things get tense. I hope they listen to me.
“And, as for other people — including our fans — I’m not looking for sympathy, but I would appreciate it if they gave me a second chance. I love playing in front of them. I love being a part of this community. And I want to show that you can make something good out of something that wasn’t.”