Local college notebook: Road warriors — Wesley copes with hoop schedule

The Wolverines practicing at Tennessee this week. Wesley sports information photos

It’s a hardly a perfect situation.

No college basketball coach wants to play 18 road games and only eight at home.

But Wesley College’s Dean Burrows tries to make the best of it for his players.

Already this season the Wolverines have practiced at West Virginia’s and Tennessee’s facilities.

“You’re staying in a hotel,” said Burrows. “You’re trying to give them as much as a Division I experience as you can at the Division III level. In that regard, I think it’s kind of cool.”

When Wesley (4-6) hosts Misericordia on Wednesday at 1 p.m., it will be just the third home game of the season. The Wolverines don’t play at home again after that until Jan. 19.

On Thursday and Friday, Wesley was playing in a tournament at Birmingham Southern.

Part of the reason for all the road games is that, after joining the fledgling Atlantic East Conference this year, Wesley has six more non-conference dates on its slate. And Burrows said many teams aren’t overly excited about playing in the Wolverines’ tiny Wentworth Gym.

“I contacted over 50 schools and they don’t get back to you at all or they just blatantly tell you no,” he said. “Or they say, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it, but come here first.’ So it’s like, ‘Well, we have to fill 13 games.’”

The Wolverines gather for a group shot at Tennessee.

Burrows said he also wants to challenge his team. While the Wolverines are under .500, they’ve played Division I Towson and suffered a pair of two-point losses.

Certainly Wesley should be battle-tested by the time it gets to February, when it plays four of its last five games at home.

“This time of year is when the bond really comes into play because all you have is basketball and one another,” Burrows said about being on the road. “This is always a fun time of year for us.

“We’re not far off. Our problem right now is trying to get a little deeper in a couple spots.”

Hens ready for Allen’s return

The Delaware men’s basketball team feels pretty good about its 8-3 start.

If there’s a concern for the Blue Hens, though, it’s that they’re relying heavily on their five starters.

Four of those five starters are playing over 32.1 minutes per game, led by senior guard Darian Bryant at 36.2.

In that regard, Delaware will be happy to have Ryan Allen (broken foot) back on the court.

Last year’s CAA Rookie of the Year may make his first appearance of the season when the Hens play a 2 p.m. game at Stony Brook on Sunday. Delaware then hosts Delaware State on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Allen averaged 15.3 points in 35.7 minutes a year ago.

“Hopefully we can get a nice shot in the arm if we do get number 0 (Allen) back in the fold,” coach Martin Ingelsby said early in the week. “We’ll see. The target date was always December 15. If he keeps progressing, I’m hopeful he’ll be available.

“We need another guard sub. It comes at a good time to get a little help.”

DelState regroups

When the Delaware State men next take the court, they would have had 14 days in between games.

Some of that is devoted to finals week. But the rest will be devoted to getting better after a 2-8 start under first-year coach Eric Skeeters.

The Hornets’ two wins have come against Cairn and St. Elizabeth — two non-Division I opponents. Their closest defeat has been by 16 points to Longwood, all other games have been losses by 20 points or more.

Skeeters said he’s going to use the time off to teach his young squad.

“Film, weight room and study,” Skeeters said. “Not so much get away from the game as much as study the game a little more. We want to get in and work on our weaknesses. We’ll get back at it.”

Extra points

• The Wesley College men’s soccer team matched the biggest turnaround NCAA Division III history this fall when it went from 3-15 in 2017 to 16-5-1 in 2018. The 11.5-game improvement was the biggest in Division III this year and equaled the record jump made by Puget Sound in 1999.

“I think the key to the turnaround this year was the team pulling together,” said 29th-year coach Steve Clark. “It started early in the season in order to start gaining some momentum. We did have some adversity throughout the season, some injuries and tough losses, but we always found a way to bounce back and regain the momentum.”

• Delaware will have a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday at 11 a.m. for its $60 million Delaware First project that includes the Whitney Athletic Center and renovations to Delaware Stadium.

• DSU’s NaJai Pollard is up to sixth on the all-time scoring list for the women’s basketball program. She scored her 1504th point against Xavier on Dec. 9.

• A number of local high school football players are expected to officially sign their letters of intent on Wednesday, the first national signing day for the sport.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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