Va. Tech's Delaney one of ACC's best

Former Towson Catholic standout has emerged as Hokies' star player

February 28, 2010|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

As his senior year at Towson Catholic unfolded, Malcolm Delaney saw other guards in the area being offered scholarships to major college basketball programs. Adrian Bowie, at nationally ranked Montrose Christian in Rockville, was headed to Maryland. Austin Freeman, at traditional power DeMatha, was going to Georgetown. So was Chris Wright of St. John's in Washington.

It left Delaney wondering where he might end up. According to his high school coach, Josh Pratt, three Atlantic Coast Conference schools, including Virginia Tech, were still in the picture.

"Then two of them abruptly stopped calling Malcolm," recalled Pratt, who coached Towson Catholic until it closed last summer. "I think that has motivated him."

That motivation helped turn Delaney from an afterthought into a star.

The fire that began to ignite during Delaney's senior year in high school, when he was named The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year, has continued through his three years in Blacksburg, Va. Delaney, now a Virginia Tech junior, is the ACC's leading scorer this season and a candidate - along with Maryland's Greivis Vasquez as well as Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler of Duke - for ACC Player of the Year.

"I didn't get respect [nationally] coming out of high school. I had to earn my respect like I'm doing now," Delaney said by telephone Friday before Virginia Tech (21-6, 8-5) practiced in preparation for today's game against Maryland (20-7, 10-3) at Cassell Coliseum. "I always had to take a back seat to people, but that's the chip I've played with, the motivation to get better in the gym in the offseason and play harder when the season is on."

Delaney said he thought only briefly about becoming a Terp, when he and Towson Catholic teammate Donte Greene were sophomores and considered being a package deal in going to College Park. That plan fell apart when Greene, now in his second year with the Sacramento Kings, committed to Syracuse and Gary Williams started loading up on guards, including Vasquez and Eric Hayes, and later Bowie and Cliff Tucker.

"[Maryland] wasn't my dream school," Delaney said. "Donte was my best friend, and we thought it would be interesting to look at, but it didn't work out. [After Greene committed to Syracuse] they had an offer on the table. I could've gone to Maryland, but they just weren't steady. I think I made the right decision for myself to come to Virginia Tech."

Hokies coach Seth Greenberg is pleased for Delaney and not surprised in the least at his progression.

Speaking of Delaney's career at Towson Catholic, Greenberg said: "The guys who are hyped up at that young age are the McDonald's All-Americans and play in the Jordan [Brand Classic] game. He wasn't a McDonald's All-American. He could have played in the Jordan game - he was good enough. He could play against anyone and be successful."

A three-year starter for the Hokies, Delaney has gone from averaging 9.6 points as a freshman to 18.1 as a sophomore to conference-best 20.2 this season, despite playing on a badly sprained ankle for more than a month shortly after the ACC season began. He has scored 30 points or more in four games.

More of a scorer than a shooter - he is shooting 38.6 percent overall this season - Delaney now has what all players would love.

"We empower him. He doesn't have a lot of restrictions," Greenberg said. "We want him to be aggressive. We want him to attack. We want him to be confident."

Said Delaney: "It's more than just having the green light. I've got to be the floor general, and I've got to make the people around me better. It's definitely something that a lot of people want, but it's definitely tougher than what it sounds like. I'm not used to just shooting all the time. They have to beg me sometimes to shoot. If you're a great scorer, you've got to have a lot of different ways to score. You just can't be one-dimensional."

Where Delaney thrives is at the foul line. In 34 games as a sophomore, he made 225 of 259 free throws. This season, he has made 184 of 216, going to line 10 times or more in 10 games, including making 20 of 23 against Clemson this month.

In that way, he reminds Greenberg and others of a guard with whom Maryland fans are quite familiar - Juan Dixon.

"He's got a little Juan in him. He's got good toughness, he'll take a hit, he's got that fire that Dixon had. I think that's a good comparison," Greenberg said. "When everyone talked about Dixon, he wasn't overly recruited, he wasn't hyped up. A four-year guy who ended up playing in the [NBA]."

Greenberg said Delaney plays like a lot of guards who grew up in Baltimore.

"I've always said that the Baltimore kids have an unbelievable feel how to play the game, a passion for the game, very prideful," Greenberg said. "He understands how to play. He reads screens great, he changes pace, he uses a shot fake. He's a complete guard."

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