Local College Notebook: DSU’s Pollard playing for her family

NaJai Pollard

NaJai Pollard has carried some extra motivation with her on the basketball court this year.

The Delaware State University senior is rewriting the women’s basketball program record books.

And she’s doing it with her family on her mind.

Pollard became Delaware State’s women’s all-time leading scorer on Monday night. She has now recorded 1,861 points in her career and the Hornets still have five games left in the regular season.

Pollard has been thinking of her aunt and cousin, who were in a severe car accident this year.

“They kind of push me to keep going and getting better and better,” Pollard said. “My motivation is my family and my future. I want to play basketball overseas and provide for them. So I continue to push and get better.”

Pollard entered Monday’s contest at North Carolina Central needing only 13 points to break the previous record of 1,846 held by Shervon Hunter (1988-1992).

She broke Hunter’s mark with a layup with 7:41 remaining in the second quarter during DSU’s one-point loss to the Eagles.

Pollard had already set the school mark for most blocks in a career. She is currently third in all-time rebounds at DSU as well.

This year, Pollard is averaging 23.3 points per game — tops in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. She’s averaging a double-double thanks to her 10.6 rebounds per game.

Pollard has scored in double-digits in every single game this year except one. She has been in 13 games where she’s been on the court for 37 minutes or more, including six where’s she’s played all 40 minutes.

“There’s a lot of pressure on her,” said DSU first-year coach David Caputo. “She’s getting double-teamed, triple-teamed every night. She always rises to the challenge.”

Home at last

The only record that Ryan Johnson is likely to break for the Delaware men’s basketball squad is playing for the most number of schools.

A first-year transfer, the redshirt senior has already been at Rutgers, Tallahassee Community College and Mercer.

But that doesn’t mean the 6-foot-5 guard hasn’t found a home with the Blue Hens.

Short-term player or not, Johnson has quickly grown into an effective role player and leader for Delaware.

In the Hens’ 78-71, double-overtime win at Towson on Thursday night, the 24-year-old Johnson collected seven points, seven rebounds, a pair of assists and a steal but — perhaps most importantly — helped keep Delaware’s young squad together when things got tough.

Delaware’s Ryan Johnson is playing for his fourth college this season. (Delaware sports information/Jeff Fannon)

“Ryan Johnson, in the huddle, he said, ‘Look, we’re going to win this game,’” said sophomore guard Ryan Allen. “‘We’re going to find a way to win this game.’ And we did that.”

“Ryan Johnson kept telling me, ‘Coach, we’re going to get this one, we’re going to get this one, we’re going to get this one,’” said UD coach Martin Ingelsby. “It’s nice for a head coach to see the older guys to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”

Johnson, from Greensboro, N.C., said he liked the Hens’ family atmosphere. The fact that this is such a young team helped him fit in right away.

“They call me ‘Grandpa,’” Johnson said with a laugh. “I’ve got all kinds of nicknames. Just being an older guy and seeing it all before, it came naturally.”

“Ryan Johnson has great respect in our locker room,” said Ingelsby. “His voice is really important.

“I think he’s playing the best basketball of his career right now. He’s shooting it, he’s rebounding — he just does a little bit of everything. And guys love playing with him.”

Notes

•Caesar Rodney High grad Aaron Greene, a senior on the Widener swimming team, has been named the MAC Swimmer of the Week six times this season. He’s competing in the conference championship meet this weekend.

•Both DSU basketball programs are on a lengthy break. The men and women do not play again until Feb. 23 when they host Maryland Eastern Shore in a doubleheader. They will have had 12 days off by the time that contest rolls around.

•Smyrna High’s Brent Fleetwood currently holds a 19-3 record in his senior year with the North Dakota State wrestling team. Fleetwood has three technical falls, a pin and four major-decisions heading into Friday’s late-night dual meet against South Dakota State.

•Chase Archangelo, another Smyrna wrestling product, is 11-9 this season as Cleveland State’s 154-pounder.

•Zack Parker (Caesar Rodney), a senior on the Ohio University wrestling team, earned the first Mid American Conference victory of his season during a dual meet against Old Dominion last Friday. Parker is 12-8 this year.

•Another Caesar Rodney product, Thomas Aloe, saw action in Delaware’s season-opening men’s lacrosse victory last Saturday. Aloe played midfielder as the Hens downed Mount St. Mary’s 11-8.

•Wesley College’s men’s basketball team (6-5 AEC, 12-12 overall) closes the regular season by hosting Neumann (3-8, 12-12) today at 2 p.m. But the Wolverines already know they’ll be hosting an Atlantic East Conference first-round tournament game on Monday at 7 p.m.

•At 0-24, Delaware Tech’s men’s basketball team is still searching for its elusive first win of the season.

Against Lackawanna on Feb. 9, freshman Corey Doran had 25 points, while sophomore Darius Jackson had a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Against Chesapeake College on Feb. 12, Doran led the way with 16 points, while Jackson had 15 points and eight rebounds. Against Delaware County, Doran scored 23 points, while Jackson had another double-double with 19 points and 22 rebounds.

 

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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