Here are two things worth noting about Jervaughn Scales, the 6'6", 223-pound senior power forward from Southern University, who leads men's NCAA Division I basketball in rebounding (14.7 a game) and ranks third in scoring (27.7 points). One is that when his beloved Delta 88—with a thunderous sound system he wired himself—was swiped earlier this season, Scales didn't rant or pout. "It got taken. There wasn't anything I could do," he says. The other is that Scales gets a huge kick out of the scene in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York in which Macaulay Culkin bonks his would-be assailants with bricks thrown from a rooftop. As Scales watched the flick on TV in a Birmingham hotel last week, his laughter increased with each brick. "The little kid just be messing those dudes up," he said.
That Scales has both a sense of perspective and an appreciation of pain isn't news to his admirers on the Southern campus in Baton Rouge. In the first round of the 1992-93 NCAA tournament Scales amassed 27 points and 18 boards in a 93-78 upset of Georgia Tech, a showcase performance that prompted Southern coach Ben Jobe to invite him to play more on the perimeter this season, the better to enhance his NBA prospects. But the levelheaded Scales, aware that the team needed him underneath, stayed put in the paint. "I like to stick with what I know," he says.
As for pain, Scales both takes it and gives it. He has long known his way around a rebound, averaging 12.6 over his career, and he's particularly adept on the offensive glass. "Jervaughn's game is outquicking people—he's tenacious," Jobe says. "Mostly," says Scales, "it's positioning yourself, praying it comes to your side. But when it comes, you got to get it. I love the contact. The only thing I don't like is to get hit in the nose, that feeling like you just drank something real cold."
Growing up, Scales was himself lost in New York. He lived at four different addresses in the metropolitan area before moving at 15 with his mom and six siblings to Dayton. There Scales discovered the joys of playing basketball and installing car radios, though he blew up a few of the latter at first. Few colleges recruited him because of his low test scores, but coaches at Southern took a chance, even though Scales had to sit out his freshman year as a Prop 48. "I was bubbling because I thought we had the best-kept secret in the world," says Jaguar assistant Tommy Green.
Heading into next week's Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, Scales trails only Purdue's Glenn Robinson and Holy Cross's Rob Feaster in points (their averages are 29.3 and 28.0, respectively). He has a chance of becoming the third player, after Xavier McDaniel ( Wichita State, 1984-85) and Hank Gathers ( Loyola Marymount, '88-89), to lead Division I in both scoring and rebounding. Like McDaniel, Scales relies on explosiveness and hard work; like Gathers, he's a product of a rapid-fire system that regularly generates 100-plus points a game.
"I don't know if I'll make it," Scales says, "but I know that as long as I think real high, something good is going to come of it."