Monte Ross knew they’d be some growing pains, but he probably didn’t realize they would hurt this much. The University of Delaware basketball coach appears headed for another long, losing season, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since he has such a young team. The Blue Hens have only one senior who sees serious playing time, Marvin King-Davis, while the rest of the roster is made up of five juniors, seven sophomores and one freshman.
So, it certainly wasn’t a surprise when the young Hens got spanked by nationally-ranked Villanova 78-48 three weeks ago. But what has to be a least a little disturbing for Blue Hens fans is what’s happened since then, after Delaware dived into its conference schedule.
Going into Thursday night’s game against Towson at the Bob Carpenter Center, the Blue Hens were 5-10 overall and 0-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association. In those four conference losses Delaware was outscored by an average of 18 points a game and the closest they’d come was a pair of 10-point defeats to Hofstra and James Madison.
It’s one thing to lose to Villanova by 30; it’s another to lose to Northeastern by 30 (Delaware fell 88-56).
If there is one silver lining in the dark cloud hanging over the Hens, it’s that they know what it’s like to get off to a bad start – Delaware started off 0-10 last season before going .500 the rest of the way.
Delaware has some good, young players, like sophomore guard Kory Holden, who leads the team in both scoring (16.2 points per game) and assists (4.4), and junior Cazmon Hayes (13.8 points per game). Two more sophomores – Chivarsky Corbett and Anthony Mosley — play meaningful minutes and both are averaging almost 10 points per game. And the Hens can lean on King-Davis for his experience, as well as his muscle underneath the basket.
But the fact remains that Delaware does not have a good team right now and there is no guarantee they’ll have a good team in the future – young players get older, but they don’t always get significantly better. Sometimes, what you see now is what you’ll see when they’re seniors. And even if they do improve in the next couple of years that doesn’t mean they’ll be stars – just because they get better doesn’t mean that they get good, or at least good enough to establish the Hens as a conference contender again.
Delaware simply needs a better caliber of player than it has now. Somehow, Ross has to land that one special recruit, a kid who could play at a bigger school, but likes the coach and the campus and the chance to be a big fish in a smaller pond. At the mid-major level, a player like that can make all the difference and also elevate the play of the people around him.
It’s either that or get lucky with a raw talent that gets overlooked by bigger schools and then suddenly blossoms with some good college coaching, and Monte Ross is a good college coach. Or else Ross can hope that one of his current players gets bitten by a radioactive spider…
Actually, Ross is already lucky, because he signed a three-year contract extension in March, 2015, before Delaware hired a new interim president, who then fired the old athletic director. If the new full-time president and A.D. were in place at the time, they might have looked at Ross’ body of work – prior to this season Ross had an overall career record of 130-171 and a conference record of 77-87 in nine seasons – and decided it was time for a change.
Instead, Ross got a ringing endorsement from his players and their parents – an important factor – and eventually he was given a three-year extension. That means he’ll be around when all of those sophomores become seniors, and that’s when we’ll find out if everybody’s patience – the school’s, the coach’s and the fans’ – finally pays off.