Right now, Hawk Hill on a basketball evening is a sensory adjustment, from the sudden lightness of the court itself to a familiar yet vastly different figure pacing in front of the St. Joseph’s Hawks bench. Transition in full progress.
You could argue that Ryan Daly is the perfect guy to have the ball in his hands during such a transition. After sitting out a season, the Delaware transfer will have the ball a lot, on the break, out on the wing, posting up.
“He’s a bulldozer!’’ a Hawks student said to his seatmate during a recent exhibition game. He used the term as a full compliment, seeing Daly on the move, straight ahead with the ball at full speed, seeing how the play worked out. That play aside, Daly’s game actually doesn’t rely on bulldozing — there’s a dexterity about it, an ability to work in tight spaces.
It’s not just his game that fits this situation. You probably know Daly’s bio. Former Catholic League MVP at Archbishop Carroll. Led Delaware in scoring twice, including 17.5 a game as a sophomore. Son of a Hawks player. Grandson of a Hawks player and head coach.
His transition to Hawk didn’t happen the way Daly expected. He transferred with two years of eligibility, and made a case to play the next season. It was never a given, getting a waiver.
“I found out the day of the first game,’’ Daly said of not being able to play last season. “That was tough for the first month.”
The rest of it broke the way it did. Phil Martelli let go after the season. Billy Lange moving in from the Sixers to the top spot. The starting backcourt transferring out.
“I think I”m going to be called on to score points for us this year,’’ Daly said. “I’ll be relied on a lot.”
It was like that when Daly got to Delaware as Martin Ingelsby’s first recruit. A new coach who saw Daly could handle a load. Here we are again.
“I watched film on him from Delaware,’’ Lange said, explaining that he wasn’t looking so much at scoring moves. “Like, how was he with the ball in his hands. Some of the attrition we had, I had to have a good feel for his ball skills. I was really impressed with his decision-making.”
First play of the exhibition game the other night against Division III Arcadia, Hawks fans on the premises had to approve as Daly took a pass on the left wing and noticed the defender across the court didn’t have eyes on him as Hawks forward Taylor Funk moved to the right corner. Funk got there as the cross-court pass arrived from Daly, and buried a three. Daly had seven assists in the first half of that exhibition, along with 12 points and six rebounds.
Asked if he was more likely to rein Daly in or give him freedom, Lange immediately said, “Let him loose, more on that side. … I can think he can elevate confidence in his teammates, because they know he will fight. ... Can you be that competitive and bring your teammates along as well? He can bring them along with him.”
At the exhibition, SJU students were into it, seeing Daly set up all over the court. He’s not afraid to make a pass or receive one in traffic, and if he senses he’s got a matchup advantage against a smaller guard, he knows where to take it.
There will be challenges at the other end for the Hawks, with interesting defensive matchups. But Daly mentioned that over the summer, he lost 2% body fat. Staying on campus over the summer, Daly said, “I changed my eating habits. It wasn’t Wawa every night. I decided I was going to eat healthier, limit soda. I grew up a little. I looked at myself and didn’t want to just bully my way to the basket.”
If his shooting gets more consistent, Daly thinks that’s the byproduct of work put in. When he sat out last season, he was always the scout-team scorer. Plays ran through him. Word filtered out that Daly was a handful in practice, as expected.