Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
For the Delaware Blue Hens to win the Colonial Athletic Association this year, they’re going to need to find some sort of depth.
They’re set with one of the better starting fives around, with a pair of preseason First Team All-Conference selections in Devon Saddler–the league’s second-leading scorer last season–and Jamelle Hagins, a double-double machine who’s one of the most tenacious rebounders in the country. There’s also sophomore point guard Jarvis Threatt, a talented scorer in his own right, as well as 3-point threat Kyle Anderson and Saint Joseph’s transfer Carl Baptiste, a somewhat unknown quantity who sat the last season out after two years on the Hawks’ bench in which he averaged 1.8 points in 8.3 minutes per game.
Baptiste’s arrival means senior Josh Brinkley, who started all 32 games last season, will be coming off the bench–at least, that’s what happened in Delaware’s season opener at La Salle. Either way, Brinkley is the only player with any sort of real collegiate experience who Monte Ross can bring in off the bench.
In that 73-66 loss to the Explorers, only Brinkley (14 minutes) and true freshman Terrell Rogers (26 minutes) saw any real playing time; redshirt freshman Marvin King-Davis and senior Will Townsville each played the final three seconds.
(See Also: A rough early start doomed the Blue Hens, writes Tom Zamonski)
Though it’s possible to get through the CAA season with just a three-forward rotation (see: Drexel, 2011-12), where the Blue Hens really need someone to step up is in the backcourt. It seems after one game that player is most likely going to be Rogers, a 5-foot-8 freshman from Charlotte, N.C. and son of 5-4 point guard Shawnta Rogers, the Atlantic 10’s Player of the Year in 1999 after his senior season at George Washington.
The younger Rogers is, like his dad, very reliant on his quickness and ball-handling. Like many freshmen who take the court for their first collegiate experience, he had some early jitters, including four first-half turnovers.
“I think he drove me absolutely nuts,” Ross said with a chuckle after the game. “He had some fearlessness about him–as a freshmen, he just doesn’t care–and he has some carlessness about him…cause he’s a freshman and just doesn’t care.”
Rogers turned it around a bit in the second half, finishing with eight points (3-of-6), two assists and three rebounds in a tough road test against a talented La Salle backcourt.
“He has a chance to be good–he’s gonna be good,” Ross said. “He has an opportunity to be a very good basketball player for us, and I’m excited, but we know what he can do, we know what he does on a daily basis for us. So I’m not surprised that he was able to come on the road and do it as a freshman. But he–as do we–have a long way to go.”
Rogers has some time to settle down before Delaware makes a run at preseason favorite Drexel for the CAA crown, but he will be tested again before a trip to Old Dominion on January 5 kicks off conference play. Temple, Duke and Villanova all loom in the coming weeks, each of whom feature backcourts that will certainly present some challenges to Rogers and the rest of his teammates.
Another interesting thing to keep an eye on over those coming weeks is the continued evolution of Jarvis Threatt, and how that will impact Saddler as he benefits from having another big-time scoring threat in the backcourt. Threatt came on strong at the end of last season, breaking the 30-point barrier twice in the last 15 games, including a career-high 31 points in Delaware’s season-ending loss to Butler last March.
“I think just the mental part of the game, just knowing what to do and what not to do,” Hagins said when asked about what his teammate had improved on the most over the summer. “Just simple things, like how to use the ball screen and when to take open shots and when to turn down shots, stuff like that. How to put the ball in someone’s hands that gets them to score.”
Threatt had a team-high 17 points against the Explorers as Saddler added all 14 of his after halftime in a loss that, while not turning out like Ross wanted it to, showed there’s plenty to look forward to this season.
“We start our team with a lot of heart, a lot of guts, a lot of energy–and when you start with having a lot of heart, then you’ll have an opportunity to win a lot of ball games,” he said.”The little intricacies that we have to fix up, we’ll do that over the course of practice, we’ll do that over the course of a season, but you can’t fix not having heart.”