Kenneth Cook/Staff Photographer
To say that Seton Hall’s frontcourt had questions to answer heading into the 2014-15 campaign is an understatement. The Pirates returned just 29 Division I minutes outside of Brandon Mobley. While the senior has had a solid campaign, averaging nearly 10 points and six rebounds per contest, 6-foot-9 Mobley does not have the physical make-up of a grinder in the paint.
That void needed to be filled. Since the season’s tip-off, there has been one clear answer to the question of who the Pirates can go to down low – that’s Angel Delgado.
The freshman, a local product in the Pirates’ top-15 freshman class, was ranked 48th in the ESPN Top 100 coming out of The Patrick School in Elizabeth, NJ.
Willard and his staff expected much of Delgado on the glass but he has been much more than any typical rebounder as a freshman. Delgado has already won the Big East Rookie of the Week award twice and is second in the conference with 9.1 rebounds per game. That mark is good for second in the country among all freshman.
“He wants to rebound the basketball more than any other freshman that I’ve ever coached,” Willard said.
That’s not the only thing Delgado has going for him.
He is tied in second among all freshmen with five double-doubles on the season. Joining Delgado is none other than 6-foot-11 Duke center Jahlil Okafor, a projected top pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.
While Willard said earlier this season that Delgado is still trying to figure out how he can score consistently, the freshman has given the Pirates a scoring boost as well. Delgado has had three performances with at least 12 points in Big East play.
While the story behind The Hall’s resurgence into the national spotlight at No. 24 in the country has been surrounding the leadership of Sterling Gibbs, Delgado has played just as meaningful of a role for the Pirates.
Seton Hall Athletics
After Mobley and Delgado, The Hall is getting little production in the paint, to say the least. Desi Rodriguez has played somewhat of a factor with over five points and four boards per game, but nowhere close to the extent of the role that his freshman teammate has played.
Beyond Rodriguez, the Pirates do not have another big man averaging more than 10 minutes per game. 6-foot-9 Rashed Anthony has 1.3 points and 1.7 boards per game in 10.2 minutes and 7-foot-1 transfer Chier Ajou has not made much of an impact.
While foul trouble has been something that has revved up with the start of conference play, Delgado only has only fouled out once this season. He has had no trouble asserting himself in going up against some of the best rebounders that the conference has to offer.
Even though the Pirates fell 79-75 in overtime to Butler last week, Delgado continued to be a bright spot for SHU. The freshman went up against Big East leading rebounder Kameron Woods, who is at 9.3 boards per game. Delgado exploded for 12 points and 15 rebounds in the game.
The stats show that Delgado is no joke, but his talent is not the only thing that is special about him. The freshman is unafraid mentally, and he doesn’t beat around the bush when looking ahead to games.
“We have to be 4-2 (in Big East play) after the DePaul game,” Delgado said before staring back at the media and saying it again. “There’s no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it, we need to get to 4-2.”
The Pirates will need the star-freshman going forward, because as much as Gibbs can keep on giving and fellow star-freshman Isaiah Whitehead will be back, this thin offense in the paint can’t have Delgado fade. There is not another offense in the Big East that needs a freshman the way SHU needs Delgado to perform. He has been as big of a reason as any for the Pirates’ return to national relevancy.
John Fanta can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @John_Fanta.