Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney Has Become a Star as a Sophomore

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 14, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Malcolm Delaney refused to speculate on whether he should be a candidate for ACC player of the year. He instead revealed a more arbitrary motivation that was set before he arrived at Virginia Tech.

"My goal coming into college was just to get on Dickie V's good side," Delaney said.

ESPN commentator Dick Vitale has yet to work a Hokies game this season, but Delaney insisted he heard Vitale share positive thoughts about him when speaking about the ACC during another broadcast. Plus, iconic college basketball coach Bob Knight provided color commentary during Delaney's 37-point outburst against Clemson and was impressed with the sophomore.

"Just to get that recognition, that's just stuff that I like," Delaney said. "I don't care about everything, but the people who do a lot of good stuff for basketball, if they notice me, I'm good."

More than commentators have buzzed about Delaney this season. An offseason that included practicing with New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul at Paul's basketball camp, combined with a year of experience, turned Delaney into one of the top guards in the ACC. He enters Saturday's game at Maryland fifth in the league in scoring at 18.7 points per game.

The pivotal conference matchup for the area schools comes just down the road from the Baltimore native's home. He spurned a scholarship offer from Maryland while playing at Towson Catholic. After arriving as one of Coach Seth Greenberg's most decorated recruits, Delaney quickly developed into the linchpin of the team.

Although naturally a scoring guard, Delaney starts at point guard for the Hokies. The position suits his personality, if not his abilities. By both his and his coach's admission, Delaney is the leader of the team. A.D. Vassallo is an experienced senior, but it is Delaney who takes charge in the locker room.

"It's by necessity," Greenberg said. "A.D. leads by example in terms of his competitive spirit. He's not afraid to take and make big shots. But Malcolm kind of brings it all together.

"He was a very good high school quarterback, and he's used to being in the huddle and taking control. He's used to looking guys in the eye and saying, 'Hey, we've got to get this done.' And guys believe him. I think that's a trait that has developed from his days in football, and it's obviously a trait that is paying dividends right now."

Delaney is averaging nine more minutes than last season, but he has nearly doubled his 9.6 points per game. Always a good shooter -- he hit more than 40 percent of his three-point attempts in 2007-08 and has connected on 37.9 percent this season -- Delaney has been more aggressive as a sophomore.

His older brother, Vincent, tells Delaney that the easiest way to accumulate points is from the free throw line. Delaney embraces contact, which he attributes to toughness developed through his Baltimore upbringing. He enters the lane willing to draw a foul, and it shows in his statistics. Delaney averages 7.7 free throws per game -- second in the ACC -- and has hit 87.1 percent of his attempts. Last year, he took just three free throws a game and made 78.7 percent.

"The biggest difference in Malcolm is that he's shown a tremendous amount of confidence in his scoring," said Boston College Coach Al Skinner, who coached against Delaney twice this season. "He's shown the ability to score the ball and shown a lot more confidence shooting the ball and being aggressive, having confidence that he can attack the basket, draw fouls and score. On the ball, he's not as quite as effective, but off the ball, he's been extremely effective."

Greenberg grants Delaney freedom within the offense. The lone decree is "don't abuse it." The more aggressive Delaney plays, Greenberg reasoned, the more he will reach the line because of "deceptive" quickness.

Delaney speaks daily with Miami standout Jack McClinton, a close friend from Baltimore. He also talks often with Boston College guard Tyrese Rice and Maryland guard Sean Mosley. Each has affirmed the improvement Delaney heard discussed by the television commentators he sought to impress.

"I feel like I'm playing just as good as anyone else in the ACC right now," Delaney said. "As far as right now, I think I'm definitely one of the most improved players in the ACC."

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