Las Vegan PJ Savoy defies doubters en route to Elite Eight

PJ Savoy bought a hat embroidered with “D-I Bound” during the AAU season before his senior year at Las Vegas High School, only to throw it away after graduation.

Forget about offers: 17.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game apparently couldn’t attract any Division I attention.

Neither could a 31-point, seven-rebound effort against national juggernaut Findlay Prep.

Not one Division I college believed in Savoy the way he believed in himself.

And now he’s on the brink of the Final Four.

After a one-year stint at Sheridan Community College in Sheridan, Wyoming, Savoy fulfilled his dream of earning a Division I scholarship by signing in 2016 with Florida State, which plays Michigan on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

The 6-foot-4-inch junior guard averages 6.5 points in 12.8 minutes and converts 37.4 percent of his 3-pointers. He hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:12 left in the Seminoles’ 75-70 victory over the West Regional’s No. 1 seed, Xavier, in the second round.

“There were countless times I remember crying to my parents that I wasn’t going to be able to live out my dream,” he said. “That’s really my drive right now, to prove everybody wrong.”

Savoy starred at Chaparral High for two years before transferring to Las Vegas High, where he played two years before graduating in 2015.

Las Vegas coach Jason Wilson said Savoy is the best shooter he’s coached, and he contacted more than 100 Division I schools on the player’s behalf.

Only three responded. And none offered a scholarship.

“They wouldn’t give him a sniff,” Wilson said. “Honestly, I don’t know what the deal was … I’m sure that being told no put a chip on PJ’s shoulder and gave him something to work for.”

Savoy’s father, Patrick, speculated that college coaches bypassed his son because of his on-ball defense. So the younger Savoy worked and worked and worked, transforming into one of the country’s top junior college players during his season at Sheridan.

He averaged 16.8 points and 5.1 rebounds while making 42.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. But those numbers weren’t enough for an invitation to a top junior college postseason camp in Kansas.

He was doubted, again, and had to play his way in.

“They said I wasn’t good enough to get in (to the camp) with my stat line,” he said. “I did well (in the play-in games), ended up getting in … After that weekend, I had probably 15 offers.”

He chose Florida State after visiting the school.

“It just felt so good to see him in that spotlight, to see him on this level,” said the elder Savoy, who played basketball at UNLV. “That confidence level he has on him now, it’s unbelievable.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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