In Delaware’s 80-67 romp of Northeastern on Monday night, senior guard Devon Saddler scored 21 points and broke the school’s all-time career scoring mark. This has been a magical season for Saddler and the Blue Hens thus far. With the win last night, Delaware (17-7, 9-0) has won 11 of its last 12 games overall and is off to an impressive undefeated start in Colonial Athletic Conference play.
Head coach Monte Ross’ crew has dominated its league with a high-octane offense. Featuring Saddler, Davon Usher, Jarvis Threatt and Kyle Anderson on the perimeter, the Blue Hens are first in the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency, averaging 111.9 points per 100 possessions, per KenPom.com—good for 48th in the nation. Not bad for a small mid major, huh?
Mid-Major Madness caught up with Saddler before his big night on Monday and talked everything from Delaware’s hot start, the team’s new supporting cast and his new role as a playmaker.
Mid-Major Madness: Your team has started off 8-0 in CAA play. Obviously nobody outside your locker room expected that considering Delaware was ranked fourth in the preseason poll, but did you think you’d be the class of the conference?
Devon Saddler: I knew we could be the class. Nobody really shows us that much respect in the CAA, so I think we’re just proving the odds this year. They picked us fourth and we felt that was disrespectful before the season even started so we just wanted to prove them wrong.
MMM: Why do you think you don’t get that respect?
DS: I don’t really know. We got a lot of offensive firepower, I don’t know why we don’t get that much respect. I guess because we lost Jamelle [Hagins], people thought we didn’t have nobody to pick up his place, but Carl [Baptiste] has stepped up.
MMM: When Jamelle graduated, what do you initially think about what that loss meant to this program? He was a huge part of your defense last year, being the two-time defending CAA Defensive Player of the Year.
DS: It was a big loss, but going into the season we knew that one of the bigs was going to step up, either [Baptiste] or Marvin [King-Davis]. We knew that we could win more games if we played four guards and put up more points.
MMM: Carl’s been playing awesome. What’s the best thing he does for you guys on the court?
DS: He scores and he defends and he talks. Anybody that talks on the floor is more powerful than someone who doesn’t communicate. That’s big for us.
MMM: How big of an impact has Davon Usher had on this program? Some were skeptical preseason of how you two would be able to share the ball, especially with Jarvis Threatt before he was suspended. But it seems like you’ve played off of each other well.
DS: Yea well, you know, he’s a big-time scorer. I’ve known him since we were younger and I always wanted to play with him. I knew him from Baltimore. We played AAU together for the Baltimore Stars. He got the gift from God to score the basketball. We knew that we could play together. People didn’t expect that because we’re both big scorers, but we share the ball, it’s not about who scores the most points, we don’t really care at the end of the game as long as we win.
MMM: I imagine that previous relationship was a big reason why he came here. What were your first thoughts when you heard it was official?
DS: Yea that was a big reason why he came here. I was like ‘man, we can win this whole thing,’ that’s what I was thinking. As soon as I got the good news, I knew we could win the whole thing and it’s going to be hard for anyone [in the CAA] to stay in front of me and him.
MMM: Have you all meshed because you’ve become more of a playmaker this year? Your assists are up. What’s the difference in the score-first role you’ve had in the past and playmaking role you’re in now?
DS: I could always do it but we had other people that made plays for us. I feel like this year I just wanted to elevate my game and get more rebounds and more assists. I didn’t want to just be known as a just a scorer. People know me as just a scorer, I want to be known as a great basketball player.
MMM: That will certainly help you at the next level.
DS: Yea, it’ll help me, for sure.
MMM: Now, losing Javris and King-Davis for February due to suspension, who’s going to have to step up and how are you going to be able to overcome those big losses?
DS: They’re two good players and you can’t take nothing away from that, but we’ve got freshman that can step up. Caz[mon Hayes] and Devonne Pinkard. We’ve got other players. We’re a good team and we’re really deep. I hear other teams say that was a big loss, but they don’t know.
MMM: Marcus Thornton was co-CAA Player of the Week this week and few people said on Twitter he’s the best scorer in the conference. You disagree, right?
DS: He’s a good scorer. I’m happy for him he won Player of the Week. But, you know, I’m a good scorer too. We know who’s the best. We know who’s best. Me and Davon Usher are the best scorers in this league.
MMM: You have Northeastern tonight. They have a lot of long guards on the perimeter. Is that a tough matchup for you?
DS: We don’t really worry about their length because we’re quick and we play a lot of defense and I’m a big, strong guard so I don’t really worry about that.
MMM: Yea, you’ve been muscling your way to the rim a lot more this season. Is that something you really worked on in the offseason?
DS: Yea, I really worked on my craft all summer with my trainer, Don Caldwell. That’s one thing we definitely focused on this summer.
MMM: Being undefeated in the CAA is a great thing to hang your hat on, but the regular season means nothing if you can’t win the tournament and get to the NCAAs. What’s the recipe for Delaware to do that this March?
DS: We just have to play defense first and then our offense will come. We’re a talented offensive team so we just have to go and play defense and the points will come.
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