From the Sports Editor: Freshman Daly emerges as star for Blue Hens

The moment didn’t seem too big for Ryan Daly.

If anything, the Delaware freshman guard shrugged off his clutch, long-range jumper that tied Elon with just 1.5 seconds left in regulation on Thursday night.

Daly pointed out that he had just missed several shots in the contest, which the Blue Hens ended up winning, 76-74, in overtime.

“I missed six or seven long-range jump shots,” he said. “Usually I’d like to think I’ll make some of them. But I stayed with it.

“Luckily, Coach said, ‘You’re going to get the last shot.’ I decided to step up. I was thankful it went in because I would have felt really bad if I missed the previous five and missed that one, too.”

Blue Hen freshman Ryan Daly seems a shoo-in to win the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year award. He’s averaging 15.0 points per game. (UD sports information)

That Daly made the last-second shot speaks volumes about the youngster’s grace under pressure.

That first-year coach Martin Ingelsby looked to Daly with the game on the line speaks even louder about Daly’s status as the on-court leader of this team.

It’s not every day that a kid who just turned 19 becomes, not only a college squad’s most productive player, but also the guy that seems to regularly put the team on his back.

Not that anybody thinks of the graduate of Philadelphia’s Cardinal O’Hara High as a youngster anymore.

“He’s wise beyond his years,” said Ingelsby.

“I think that comes from where he played in high school. He’s played in big environments, he’s had the ball in his hands, he’s played against great competition.

“You would think, if you came in the gym, he’s a junior or senior with his experience, how he plays, his maturity, just the poise he plays the game with.”

“His mentality and his way of scoring are beyond a freshman’s standpoint,” said sophomore guard Darian Bryant.

Going into Saturday’s game at James Madison, Daly had scored in double figures in 20 of Delaware’s last 24 games. That included seven contests with 20 or more.

And the 6-foot-4, 185-pounder is usually one of the Hens’ top rebounders at 7.0 per game.

To be sure, this hasn’t been a great season for Delaware. Still, at 10-16, the Hens have already won three more games than they did all last year.

And Daly’s never going to be called the fastest player or highest jumper on the court.

But that’s part of why he’s fun to watch. While he’s an above-average shooter, the rest seems to come from grit and hard work.

“It’s amazing when he steps between the lines,” said Ingelsby. “And he does it in practice. That’s what I give him credit for. He is as consistent a basketball player and competitor as I’ve been around.

“He’s confident in his ability,” said Ingelsby. “He’s done a fabulous job across the board for us — scoring, rebounding, handling the ball, distributing. …”

Daly comes by his basketball skills naturally. His dad, Brian, and grandfather, Jim Boyle, both played at St. Joseph’s while his uncle, Kevin Boyle, played at Harvard.

At this point, Daly seems a shoo-in to win the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year award. He’s averaging 15.0 points per game.

“They should just etch the trophy right now and give him Rookie of the Year,” Ingelsby said last month. “He has a great will to win. And it’s starting to rub off on the rest of the group.”

Right now, with Ingelsby not having much time to recruit after he was hired in May, Delaware desperately needs Daly to produce.

But it will be interesting to see how his role develops when Ingelsby is able to build a roster.

In the meantime, Daly has just had to grow up fast.

“I would say (the term) ‘freshman,’ that’s not really applying anymore,” said Daly. “Coaches have told me, you’re basically a sophomore after the first half of the season. I was a little nervous at first, in the first three or four games.

“We have a lot of great leadership on our team that’s given me the confidence to just go. I feel like I’m not a freshman any more — like I’ve been here for three or four years. I credit my coaches and teammates for believing in me from day one.”

Super family experience

Patriots safety and Caesar Rodney product Duron Harmon celebrates after Sunday’s Super Bowl.

It was only nine years ago that Dawn Harmon was watching her son, Duron, and his Caesar Rodney High teammates win a Division I football state championship.

So imagine how she felt being in Houston last Sunday night watching Duron and his New England Patriot teammates make their historic comeback to win Super Bowl LI.

“It was nerve-wracking down to the end,” said Mrs. Harmon.

Of course, the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Seahawks two years ago also came down to the end.

Harmon, a teacher at CR’s Fifer Middle School, knows only a handful of families get to see one of their own win two Super Bowls. The four seasons that Duron has played safety with the Patriots have clearly been special for the Magnolia family.

“He was excited, he was happy,” Mrs. Harmon said about seeing her son after the game. “You never know what the future’s going to bring so every opportunity is one that seems like it would never be. Basically, it’s a one million. We’re excited.”

Odds & ends

• The Henlopen Conference basketball championship games have been tentatively set for Cape Henlopen High on Feb. 24. It looks like it will be Caesar Rodney vs. Laurel in the girls’ contest and Smyrna against Woodbridge in the boys’ matchup.

• Dover’s Gabby Brengle will be honored as the state’s Professional Tennis Registry Member of the Year this week in South Carolina. Brengle, and her family, own the Dover Indoor Tennis Center.

• Speaking of Brengle, her daughter, Madison, is No. 88 in the most recent WTA rankings.

• Polytech High’s nonconference opponents on its 2017 football schedule are A.I. du Pont, Indian River, Milford and Laurel. Lake Forest will also face A.I. next fall as well as Wilmington Friends, Tatnall and Caravel.

• No wrestling team from above the canal has won a DIAA dual-meet state championship since 2011. Henlopen Conference teams, plus St. Georges, have combined to win the last 10 titles on the mat.

The pairings for this year’s state tournament will be announced today with the tourney being held on Tuesday night at Smyrna High.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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