The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award for the nation’s best center is headed to South Orange after Angel Delgado took home the honor from tonight’s College Basketball Awards show.
Angel Delgado (13.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.8 apg) was a finalist for the award alongside fellow seniors Isaac Haas (Purdue; 14.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Jock Landale (Saint Mary’s; 21.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg), Thomas Welsh (UCLA; 12.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg), and freshman Brandon McCoy (UNLV; 16.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg).
“It’s really exciting. I’m really happy for the award,” said Delgado on a conference call prior to tonight’s show.
“I’m really happy and proud, my family is proud, everybody is proud, my coaches, my teammates. It’s something that I never expect to win. I worked hard for it.”
Despite his big senior season, Delgado was curiously left off the Big East’s post-season first team, which is voted on by the league’s coaches.
It’s a little odd to then go on to win an award for the nation’s best center.
“Haha. It’s Big East coaches, so if they didn’t think I was first team all-Big East, it’s okay for me, I really respect the decision,” said Delgado, shrugging it off.
“I’m proud of myself, I know what I did, I know that I did good, it’s their decision, it is what it is, I’m just happy to win a big-time award that I’ve always wanted.”
In what was a great moment for fans let alone Delgado, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar himself presented the trophy to Angel during the awards show.
Over the past four years and change, the Dominican native has been compared by various coaches and pundits to NBA greats from Dennis Rodman to Moses Malone to Hakeem Olajuwan to Kareem himself, so it’s fitting that the award was presented — and partially decided by — someone from those ranks.
“I’m really happy that I’m meeting a great player like that in Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), it’s great,” said Delgado in anticipation of meeting Abdul-Jabbar. “I watched a lot of old school basketball, so meeting one of the greatest players of all time, it’s just a blessing.”
A couple months ago when Delgado claimed the Big East all-time rebounding crown, he joked that “when I move in my house, probably put it (the trophy) only in one room, that’s my kid until I have a kid (laughs).”
What does he plan to do with this trophy? Angel may have to do some home remodeling — the trophy is large, both literally and figuratively.
“I will make it two rooms, because it’s big, it’s really big the trophy (laughs). It’s one of the best trophies I’ve ever had in my whole career.
“I’m definitely going to make a whole room about it, pictures, everything. It’s going to be great seeing this type of stuff in my house or in my apartment. It’s going to be great, I’m really proud of myself.”
While it seems like a decade ago now, Delgado was pretty close to leaving Seton Hall for the professional ranks this time last year after he declared for the NBA Draft without an agent following his junior season.
In retrospect, the decision to stay looks like a great one with Delgado adding several major accomplishments to his trophy case as a result. It’s now hard to imagine what would have happened to the big man’s legacy had he departed a year early.
Delgado was able to amass 1593 points, 1455 rebounds, 227 assists, 72 double-doubles, a Big East Tournament title, three NCAA appearances, an NCAA win, and holds the conference rebounding crown, not to mention his unworldly 20-20 game against Kansas in the Round of 32.
The NCAA tournament win must have felt like the cherry on top at the time, but at least from an individual standpoint, the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award raises the bar even higher.
“It was all worth it. I would not change these four years for nothing,” reflected Delgado.
“I would not change these guys and four years for nothing. I love my guys, I love my coaches, coach is really like my father. It’s been a long ride, but I had really good fun out here.”
The mixture of business and pleasure — oh boy did Angel have fun out on the court — begs the question of whether anyone else will ever wear the No. 31 in Pirate blue.
For most fans, the answer to the question of retiring Delgado’s number is a no-brainer, and its been on the mind of the always-jovial Seton Hall great.
“Yeah, yeah I’ve thought about that. It would be great if they retire my number. … I’m definitely going to start telling Coach (Willard) that he better tell the school to do that (laughs).”
With the Abdul-Jabbar award perhaps surpassing an NCAA tournament win, this would surely be the ultimate honor and the finishing touch on an illustrious career at Seton Hall.
“Stuff (accolades) like that, I never expected it and I worked hard for it. I think I deserve it and the school knows I deserve it.”
Angel deserves everything that he has earned while donning the Seton Hall colors. There won’t be another player in South Orange like him — on and off the court — for decades to come, if ever.
It wouldn’t be fair to any future Pirates naive enough to pick No. 31, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair to Angel.
So that jersey better be headed to the rafters. Real soon.