Managing Sports Editor
A few minutes remained on the game clock, but it did not matter. The college careers of Kevin Anderson and Ryan Allen were over, as they embraced for the final time in Blue Hen uniforms. Shortly thereafter, Dylan Painter experienced the same ovation from the crowd and a hug from head coach Martin Ingelsby.
As the seniors on the men’s team were saluted during the end of an 80-60 NCAA tournament loss to Villanova, a handful of women’s basketball seniors shot around in warmups for what would be the final time.
Around two hours later, they were given similar salutes after Maryland ended their season with a defeating 102-71 blow.
The abrupt endings on that Friday back in March hurt for players and coaches from both teams, but a positive, upbeat outlook on their accomplishments shone through the disappointment — especially for the senior class.
“The finality of this always stings, but I am super, super proud of our group and how we competed,” Ingelsby said in the closing press conference.
“This is not the outcome that we wanted, but we don’t want this one game to take away a phenomenal season,” then-head coach Natasha Adair said after the women’s loss. “It hurts, as it should … but I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors.”
Adair, who is now head coach at Arizona State, guided the team to its first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title since 2013, helped by a large group of seniors that were Delaware veterans.
Jasmine Dickey, the conference’s leading scorer and now on the roster of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, was the star of a team that improved from midpack in the CAA to the top by her career’s end. She totaled just under 2,000 points, over 1,000 rebounds and nabbed two CAA Player of the Year awards.
“I wanted to leave my mark, I know our team wanted to leave our mark, and I think that’s what we did,” Dickey said after her final game. “We put Delaware on the map.”
Dickey, notorious for her hustle plays and endless motor, came to Newark in 2018 alongside Paris McBride, who blossomed into the team’s starting point guard and leader.
It was McBride who Adair consistently referred to as a team leader and floor general, especially during her final two seasons at Delaware. In 2021, the team made a semifinal run in the National Invitation Tournament, and one year later, McBride played through a knee injury during the end of the season.
In 2019, Tee Johnson and Ty Battle joined the program that was beginning to grow in success under Adair. Johnson, known for her defensive intensity, played a large role in her first year, while Battle had to sit out a year to meet NCAA transfer regulations.
But when Battle was able to hit the court, she became a double-double machine, averaging over 12 points and 11 rebounds per game in her two campaigns as a Blue Hen. Joining her in the paint this most recent season was Maddie Sims, a UMass transfer, who appeared in 26 games with Delaware.
Unlike any of her teammates, though, forward Lizzie Oleary endured the entirety of the program rebuild under Adair. In the 2017-2018 campaign, Oleary was named to the All-CAA Rookie Team.
As Adair’s recruits joined each year, Oleary stuck around and became the team’s “glue,” Adair often mentioned. She ended up a full-time starter in her final two years at Delaware.
“She bought into the system,” Adair said. “She helped lay the foundation of success for this program.”
While one of Delaware’s most decorated senior classes leaves, with that March Madness success still resonating, a new regime will begin with first-year head coach Sarah Jenkins.
On the men’s side, there was no lack of senior leadership and accomplishments, either. Two of Ingelsby’s first recruits — Anderson and Allen — set the culture for Blue Hens men’s basketball.
Anderson flashed often and early, before his season was derailed by a serious knee injury. Allen picked up the slack, winning CAA Rookie of the Year and becoming one of the team’s top shooters.
The backcourt duo became close friends on and off the court and the face of Delaware men’s basketball. As the program moved up the CAA ranks, Ingelsby made additions to the eventual departing Class of 2022, namely 6’10 forward Dylan Painter.
After winning a national championship as a Villanova redshirt, Painter sat out the end of the 2018-2019 season and the start of the 2019-2020 season before seeing the court in Newark. The next season, Painter hit his stride and was named to the all-conference team.
Transfers Anthony Ochefu and Reggie Gardner and walk-on Davis Long were also added to the fray for a team looking to break through in the postseason. But three consecutive trips to the CAA tournament ended at the hands of rival Hofstra, leaving just one extra year of eligibility for many of Delaware’s veterans.
The 2021-2022 season was full of ups and downs, injuries and struggles from the senior class. Heading into the conference tournament as the No. 5 seed, Ingelsby’s squad needed a reset.
That reset came from a renewed emphasis on the defensive end and some young talent in the form of forwards Jyáre Davis and Andrew Carr. Delaware made an improbable run to win the CAA title and clinch their first NCAA tournament berth since 2014.
“This was the first time in a long time where I feel like the team was a real family,” Anderson said. “We stuck together no matter what, ups and downs throughout the year.”
Through five years at the university, Anderson and Allen had finally helped deliver a championship to Newark. The season-ending loss to Villanova stung, but did not erase what had already been accomplished.
“All credit to them, they took us on an unbelievable journey,” Ingelsby said. “They moved our program forward, I think they raised the bar for Delaware basketball on a big stage.”
That bar will be hard to reach, as 2022 was the first time both basketball programs had qualified for the NCAA tournament in the same year. Delaware basketball enjoyed a rollercoaster of success and publicity this past March behind the years of commitment and effort from the many departing seniors, who leave as winners and champions.