Sports Commentary: It’s about time

The men’s basketball team has forged a bond with the student body.

UD vs. JM
KIRK SMITH/THE REVIEW
Delaware junior guard Kyle Anderson gets ready for a free-throw during a victory over James Madison.

BY
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR

Nearly two weeks ago, the Delaware men’s basketball team did what not even Elena Delle Donne could do during her illustrious college career. After the team erased a 20-point deficit and defeated the College of Charleston to remain unbeaten in CAA play, the students stormed the court at the Bob Carpenter Center for the first time in recent history.

It was a special moment to see students mob the players in celebration. It was a special moment to see senior guard Davon Usher, who had just scored 42 points the night after his grandmother passed away, hugged by total strangers as he walked off the court in tears.

For the first time in a long time, the students of this university actually cared about the outcome of a sporting event.

Last Wednesday, when the Hens took on James Madison, the student section was full. Students who arrived after tip-off had to find somewhere else to watch the game.

That’s a far cry from just last semester, when having 20 kids left in the student section at the end of a home football game would have been considered above average.

For one reason or another, this year’s men’s basketball team has been able to do what no other Delaware team in recent history has accomplished. They’ve created a bond between themselves and the student body, one that not even the Delle Donne-led Lady Hens of last year could rival.

This season, the Hens are averaging 80.1 points per game and can put four guards on the floor who can score from anywhere on the court. Senior guard Devon Saddler is the new all-time leading scorer in program history, senior forward Carl Baptiste is among the most improved players in the CAA and with Jarvis Threatt and Marvin King-Davis suspended, Usher has developed into a pillar of consistency.

With four games left in the regular season, Delaware has a stranglehold on first-place in the conference and barring a total collapse, the Hens will be the No.1 seed in the CAA Tournament in Baltimore three weeks from now. On Feb. 26, the Hens will get two starters back in Threatt and King-Davis just in time to make a run at the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.

Although the progress the student body has made so far in support of the men’s basketball team has been monumental compared to years past, it shouldn’t stop here. Filling the student section for a men’s basketball home game is significant for Delaware, but at schools around the nation that’s been happening every game for decades. And it’s not just at the perennial top-25 programs.

When Delaware traveled to Madison Square Garden to take on Bryant University earlier this season, Bryant had a student section of nearly 100 people travel to support their team. Bryant is located in Smithfield, R.I.,185 miles away from MSG. Delaware had a mere handful of fans there, despite our university being 50 miles closer to MSG than Bryant.

Moreover, at other CAA schools such as Drexel, JMU and Towson, student sections have been consistently full for years.

Perhaps Delaware is just catching up to its rivals in terms of student interest in athletics. Maybe the support the students have shown to this year’s men’s basketball team will reverberate into future seasons and spread to other sports.

Then again, maybe not. But regardless, progress has been made. And that’s something we should hold onto, because nobody knows how long it’ll last.

Paul Tierney is the managing sports editor of The Review. Send any questions and comments to ptierney@udel.edu.

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