From the sports editor: DeShields’ hoop ability shouldn’t be overlooked

Delino DeShields’ basketball potential was unquestioned.

It was also unfulfilled.

What would have happened if the former Seaford High star had chosen Villanova and basketball instead of going straight into pro baseball?

Delino DeShields

Jim Wentworth, the late Wesley College men’s basketball coach, first saw DeShields on the court when he was only an eighth-grader.

“By ninth grade you knew he was going to be one of the best players in the state,” Wentworth said several years ago. “I really hated to see him not go to Villanova because I think he would have been just as good in basketball as he was in baseball.”

The fact that DeShields made a name for himself as a 13-season Major Leaguer doesn’t change the fact that he may have also been the best boys’ basketball player in downstate history.

DeShields, a 1987 Seaford High grad, was one of the two main vote-getters in our recent readers’ poll on the subject.

Purnell Ayers, who led Cape Henlopen High to a pair of state titles in the mid-1970s, was right there with DeShields. The state Player of the Year in both 1975 and ‘76, he finished with a then-state record 1,540 points.

Ayers was later named the state’s Player of the decade. Long-time coach Jerry Kobasa said he never saw anybody better than Ayers.

“He was amazing,” said Kobasa.

Just since the 1970s there’s a seemingly endless list of great downstate boys’ basketball players. Indian River’s Charlie Rayne, Cape Henlopen’s Jimmy Allen and Caesar Rodney’s Laron Profit were all future NBA Draft picks.

And players like Dover’s Ukee Washington, Sussex Tech’s Rashawn Johnson and Brian Polk (Henlopen Conference record 2,056 points) and Indian River’s Wes Townsend (1,821 points) should also be in the conversation.

But there was something transcendent about DeShields’ athletic ability. Despite standing only about 6-foot-1, his remarkable vertical put him in dunk contests even after he became a pro baseball player.

Former Seaford teammate Mike Neill, who had a pro baseball career himself, doesn’t know if he ever saw a better athlete than DeShields. He remembers talking to DeShields after the youngster made his middle-school basketball debut as a seventh-grader.

“I kind of asked him how he played,” Neill said several years ago. “He said, ‘OK.’ He scored 36 points in his first game as a seventh-grader.

“My opinion might be biased,” said Neill, “but I think he’s probably the best that ever came out of the whole state of Delaware.”

Hens losing Mutts

The Delaware men’s basketball program has apparently lost another top player.

Forward Justyn Mutts, who made a big impact last season in his first year playing for the Blue Hens, has reportedly entered the graduate transfer portal.

There’s hasn’t been any official announcement. But, on Friday, Mutts retweeted a pair of posts saying that he’s available for transfer.

The Blue Hens’ Justyn Mutts has reportedly entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Delaware sports information photo

A 6-foot-7, 220-pounder with two years of eligibility remaining, he averaged 12.2 points — second on the squad — and a team-best 8.4 rebounds last winter. He posted 11 double-doubles, including a career-high 30-point, 13-rebound performance in a win over CAA champion Hofstra.

Mutts sat out the previous season after transferring from High Point.

He’s the fourth starter to leave Delaware in the last five seasons. Standout guard Nate Darling also announced for the NBA Draft but still has the option to return for his senior season.

If Mutts had come back, the Hens could have had all five starters returning.

“Big time energy, that’s my main thing,” Mutts said after debuting with the Hens last fall. “I’m just a happy kid. I’m just a really energetic person. I try to share that with people around me.

“I want everybody around me to feel the great vibes, the great energy that I try to bring.”

Still in the swing

Seemingly the only major sport that wasn’t completely stopped by the coronavirus pandemic was golf.

At least locally, most golf courses after remained open the past few months — with players expected to obey health guidelines.

As such, the Delaware State Golf Association is still planning to hold many of its major tournaments this summer. A few tourneys were postponed or moved until later in the season.

The 69th annual Delaware Amateur is slated to be held June 22-24 at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville. The 55th Delaware Open is then on tap July 27-28 at The Peninsula in Millsboro.

The recent lifting of the guideline requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days was actually important for Delaware golf courses.

“Obviously, Delaware is a small state and we have a lot of members both north and south (of the state),” said Laura Heien, the DSGA’s first-year executive director. “We’re happy to have them back and able to use the courses that they normally play.”

Heien did say that many of the tourneys will have smaller fields. They’ll be limited by the number of golf carts at each facility since players have to ride separately during the pandemic.

“We’re anticipating field sizes between 60 to 80 players would be a comfortable number,” said Heien.

Golf has always been a sport that puts a great deal of responsibility on the individual players to adhere to the rules. Heien said that same idea applies to players following safety guidelines during the pandemic.

“Each person, obviously, needs to be accountable for themselves for how they handle a situation like this,” she said. “But we’ve done our best as the state association to keep our clubs informed and then have that trickle down to the golfers as well about what they should and should not be doing.

“We’ve done our best to get the correct information out and dispel any rumors that are happening and just keep everybody going in the same direction and the right direction.”