In 1987, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard got his first glimpse at what a dominant rebounder looked like.
As a ball boy for the 1987 Syracuse team that made it to the Final Four while his father was an assistant coach, Willard had a courtside seat to witness center Derrick Coleman pull down rebounds at a historic pace in his sophomore year. As the years passed, Coleman got better on the glass and finished his Big East career with 701 rebounds, a conference record.
“I don’t remember a game where Derrick didn’t bring it,” Willard said of Coleman’s rebounding prowess.
Twenty-eight years later, Willard has another first-hand look at a dominant rebounding force, however this time around. It is one of his own players, Seton Hall center Angel Delgado, who now owns the conference rebounding record after a 19-rebound performance against DePaul on Jan. 28.
“To have that honor for 28 years is amazing,” Coleman said in an interview with Syracuse.com. “I remember when I was coming out of high school; I think Otis Thorpe at Providence might have been the rebounding leader then, so records are made to be broken. It’s just a matter of time before they are broken.”
Coleman also shot a video congratulating Delgado on breaking his record that was posted on Pirates’ social media.
Delgado showed glimpses of what he could accomplish early in his Seton Hall career. As a freshman adjusting to the rigors of college basketball, Delgado established himself as one of the top rebounders in the tough and rugged Big East, grabbing 9.8 rebounds per game.
From there, Delgado went on to become arguably the most dominant force on the glass in college basketball, leading the NCAA in rebounds as a junior with 13.1 per game. Delgado’s now-famous “I love rebound” quote as a freshman has essentially embodied the kind of player he has been throughout his career as a Pirate, coming down with boards at a pace Seton Hall fans have not seen since program legend Walter Dukes donned the blue and white in the 1950s.
“He’s a good player, he’s a workhorse,” Georgetown head coach and Big East legend Patrick Ewing said of Delgado following a Jan. 13 matchup with Seton Hall. “He makes the other guy work for everything. He’s smart and he knows how to use his body.”
“I don’t care what anyone says, he’s an NBA player,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said of Delgado following the matchup at the Prudential Center on Jan. 20. “Him not getting invited to the draft combine [last year] was a joke.”
Regardless of Delgado’s future in professional basketball, his place in Seton Hall and Big East history is now set in stone. Delgado still has the games left to increase his rebound total and it will take a lot for whoever the next rebounding machine in the Big East is to break it. Whether Delgado’s record is eclipsed at some point or not, there is no erasing Delgado’s name and his illustrious double-doubles from the memories of Seton Hall fans.
Delgado has been one of the driving forces behind the resurrection of the Seton Hall basketball program, and for that, he is a legend. Throw in the records that he has been set in his time in South Orange and Delgado becomes one of the best players in the program’s storied history.
“I just named some of the guys I grew up with in this league: Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, the great big guys,” Willard said to Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin on AM970 “The Answer” on Jan. 28. “For him to break that record, it just shows the unbelievable hard work, unbelievable effort he’s given to the program. It’s only fitting that the greatest rebounder in the Big East is a Seton Hall Pirate. That’s pretty darn cool.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.