NEW YORK – In search of leadership and scoring following Isaiah Whitehead’s move to the NBA, perhaps Seton Hall will fill the void not with guard play, but via junior forward Angel Delgado.
First, he broke onto the scene as the Big East Rookie of the Year. Then, he was selected as a preseason All-Big East second-teamer this year to go along with a postseason All-Conference honorable mention he received in March.
Highly touted from the day he stepped foot in South Orange, double-double machine Angel Delgado has not been a conventional disappointment because he undeniably has produced. Oddly enough, said production has left Seton Hall fans hungry for the Dominican big man to reach new heights instead of plateau as a second-team/honorable mention type player.
Angel has been listening.
“That’s my goal right now, to prove people I can do better than that.”
“I worked really good every single day [this summer] on my shot. I don’t leave practice without shooting almost like 100 shots. That’s what I’m here for, to prove myself and get better every year.”
In addition to hard work in the bowels of Walsh Gym, Angel also benefited from getting a call-up from the Dominican Republic national team to play in Centrobasket 2016, a Caribbean and Central American tournament used for qualification to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Even after averaging 12.5 ppg (10th) and 7.3 rpg (7th) in 25 mpg to help the D.R. grab third place, Delgado spoke about the chance to represent his country as a learning experience and not purely a competitive event.
“I went back to the D.R. to play for the national team, to play with people bigger and way older than me and that helped me a lot, it got me to understand how to play at a high level.
“I went there not really for the tournament, I went there to learn,” said Delgado, whose English has vastly improved since his freshman year.
“Every time I played with someone who played at a high level for a long time, I ask them [questions]. A lot of guys told me ‘You’re a young guy, you’ve got to do this’ — I learned a lot from that tournament, I really thank my country for inviting me there.”
Delgado, who was primarily a rebounding and back-to-the-basket guy as a freshman, developed the ability to stay out of foul trouble more consistently via steady defense, increase his foul shooting by 12-percent and also face defenders up or even shoot over them as a sophomore.
Look for more of that in 2016-17, plus increased numbers after his statistical averages stayed level between his first two seasons — a common gripe directed to him from fans, especially early last season.
“That’s what I’m trying to do this year: shoot more jump shots, play in front of people [e.g. face up]. I cannot say that all years I’m the same thing, look like I’m not growing, that I’m not getting better. This year I want to prove to people I can do a lot of stuff.”
Angel also has the backing of head coach Kevin Willard, who looks ready to invest in his junior forward with Isaiah Whitehead gone.
“We’re not going to run the same package that we ran last year. We’re going through Angel a lot more than we have in the past, he’s able to handle the workload as a junior,” said Willard.
This very strategy appeared to work in spurts last season, especially at the beginning of halves.
“Obviously as a freshman you’re not really ready to handle the load. We’re working more inside-out than we have, which is nice to get the ball inside to him. He’s a great passer, so I think people are going to see a different side of him — not just the rebounding side.”
While his freshman year revolved around proving he could play at the college level and last season was about turning around a dismal 2014-15 campaign, Angel insists the hunger to prove people wrong is still burning deep inside his belly — perhaps it will manifest in an even grander way this year.
“I’ve been like that my whole life,” he proclaimed, sporting his patented grin.
“I love to prove people wrong. I feel good, I go to my room, think about it and I’m like ‘Yeah, I proved people wrong.’”