Va Tech's Delaney acting the part of a winner
Malcolm Delaney has become notorious in the Atlantic Coast Conference for trying hard to draw fouls. So much so that even he was stunned earlier this month when game officials told him to ``stop flopping.''
Far from a flop, Delaney and Virginia Tech have become the surprise hit in the ACC this season. Led by the high-scoring guard, the Hokies are challenging for first place.
Delaney leads the league in scoring at 20.2 points, is second in free throw percentage at 84.3 percent and has taken 38 more shots from the foul line than anyone else. He and the Hokies will be looking for their sixth win in a row on Sunday when they play at No. 6 Duke.
The Blue Devils lead the ACC with a 10-2 record, and the Hokies (21-4) are tied for second with Maryland at 8-3. In a season when Virginia Tech's nonconference schedule was among the weakest in the nation, Delaney figures the big games ahead are proving time.
``We've still got a couple games where we've got a point to prove and show people that we're a good team,'' he said before the Hokies rallied past No. 23 Wake Forest.
Count on No. 23 being right in the middle of everything for Virginia Tech, from the team's defense-first approach to the chatter in the huddles and performing when it matters most.
In the mind of Hokies coach Seth Greenberg, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior guard from Baltimore is the ``poster child'' for the identity the Hokies are working to build.
``Malcolm epitomizes what I want our program to be all about,'' Greenberg said. ``He loves the gym. He loves ball. He's a good student, a very good student, a committed student.
``He's passionate about getting better, and he's passionate about winning,'' he said.
And it's that last part - the winning - that allows Delaney to ignore all the talk about his thespian-on-the-court reputation for trying to draw fouls that don't exist.
That reputation grew when the Hokies beat Clemson 70-59 in a brutal shooting games for both teams, and Delaney's 20 for 23 showing at the foul line was the difference.
Not surprisingly, Greenberg and the Hokies think the flopping tag is undeserved.
``He gets fouled a lot, and it kind of bothers me that sometime the refs don't make the call,'' said Dorenzo Hudson, who has become the Hokies' No. 2 scorer with prodding from his backcourt mate. ``If he doesn't get it, he's going to try to get the stop at the other end.''
The beating Delaney takes in every game can't be understated, Greenberg said.
``Is he a little dramatic? Yeah, he might be a little dramatic,'' he said. ``He's still 175 pounds running into a 240 pound guy. He's still a guy that every single team in the league grabs and holds and bumps and every single time he comes off a curl takes a shot at him.''
A former high school quarterback, Delaney is no stranger to getting hit, but he takes pride in being able to adjust. In the game against Clemson, that change seemed obvious, particularly since a sprained ankle hampered his typical inside and outside game.
``I couldn't elevate on my shot and I couldn't really finish around the rim like I was earlier in the season, so I had to make adjustments,'' he said. ``You could tell I couldn't really elevate. They blocked my first three shots, so I was going to be smart about that and I started pump-faking and they were trying to block my shots and they kept fouling me.''
While some complain about Delaney's style, others can't help but admire the results.
``Delaney could be the best, one of the top guards in the country,'' said North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe, a national championship-winning point guard with the Wolfpack in 1983. ``He just causes so many problems for you. Any guy that can score 30 points and get 20 of them from the free throw line as a guard is absolutely amazing. He makes them go.''
On Tuesday night, Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio saw plenty of what Delaney can do. He scored 31 points, 10 in the final seven minutes, as the Hokies rallied for one of those ``proving'' wins, 87-83. Delaney also matched his career high with nine rebounds in the game.
``He was exceptional today,'' Gaudio said. ``He plays with his mind. He's a smart kid, he does a good job of lifting guys and drawing fouls, and so give him credit for that.''
It's credit that has been slow in coming, but if the Hokies keep winning Delaney could get a bigger stage to showcase his talents - in the NCAA tournament.