From the Sports Editor: Hens, Hornets tip off hoop season Friday

Martin Ingelsby had to laugh at the question.

The former Notre Dame assistant was asked if he thought he was ready to be a head basketball coach.

“I better be, right?” Inglesby answered with a smile. “I’m going to make mistakes. I tell our guys all the time, we’re learning about our team, I’m learning about myself as a head coach.”

Ready or not, the first-year Delaware men’s coach will dive into the season when the Blue Hens host Division II Goldey-Beacom on Friday at 7 p.m.

Martin Ingelsby

Martin Ingelsby

Delaware State’s men also get started on Friday with an 8 p.m. home game against Summitt.

To be frank, it’s expected to be an uphill climb for both the Hens and Hornets this winter.

In its rankings of all 351 Division I teams in the country this season, Sports Illustrated has DelState at 340 and Delaware at 330.

In the Hens’ case, the low expectations aren’t unexpected. They lost their top two players from a squad that finished just 7-23 a year ago.

“I talked to them about having a chip on their shoulder,” said Ingelsby. “The one thing for this group is they’ve really learned how to play together. We’re not caught up in where we start the season.

“My biggest thing with them is, ‘Let’s improve every day to be there in January and February playing our best basketball.’ That gives them hope. They’re excited. I think they have a feel that our team is improving.

“I’m a competitor, I want to win,” said Ingelsby. “These guys, I think, have to learn how to win. We’ve got to take baby steps and celebrate small victories — whether it’s winning a four-minute period, winning a half. I want these guys confident. I want them to be excited to play.”

In the meantime, the 37-year-old Ingelsby is going to lean on his boss at Notre Dame, Mike Brey, for advice.

Brey, of course, found his first success as a young head coach at Delaware in the 1990s.

Ingelsby doesn’t plan on calling Brey about every little thing. But he does expect to have regular conversations with him.

The Hens open with a hectic stretch that includes playing six games in 10 days in four states.

“I’ve talked to him probably once a week for the last couple weeks,” said Ingelsby. “And I’ll definitely check in with him before the game on Friday night.

“I knew my routine on a day-to-day basis and game days,” he said. “When you’re an assistant, you’re out and involved with the guys more. Now I kind of revert back to, ‘What would Mike do? How would he manage his day and lead up to a game’ I think that will be a work in progress for me.”

Women start up, too

Delaware State’s and Delaware’s women’s teams both start their seasons this weekend, too.

The Hornets host Detroit Mercy on Friday at 6 p.m. with the Hens hosting George Mason on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Delaware coach Tina Martin, whose team is picked to finish fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association, has an interesting mix of newcomers and veterans. The veteran coach is going to have to play three freshman guards.

“It’s a really different team, to be honest with you,” said Martin. “I like them (the freshmen). They’re feisty. They’re playing their butts off right now and trying to learn as much as they can.

“Going into a season when you know that, of your rotation of five guards, three are going to be freshmen, that’s a little bit of a challenge. But I like these kids.”

Odds & ends

•There’s been talk in the community that Polytech High is considering dropping its football program to JV status for a couple years or even leaving the Henlopen Conference in all sports.

But athletic director/football coach Kevin Smith said Wednesday that the Panthers are still very much a member of the Henlopen Conference in all sports as the league begins its next two-year scheduling period.

•Former Wesley College standout quarterback Joe Callahan is still a member of the Cleveland Browns, although he’s been dropped from second to fourth on the depth chart.

•Ryan’s High Five 5K will be held on Sunday in Magnolia in memory of Ryan Bradford, the 18-year-old Special Olympics athlete who died in a fire in June. Registration starts at 9 a.m. More information can be found at trisportsevents.com.

Billy Russo was named director of operations for DE Turf on Monday. A Wake Forest grad, he spent the last eight years at the Smith River Sports Complex in Martinsville, Va.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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