Cedric Elleby believes the hard lessons of December will pay off in March for the Delsea boys' basketball team.

It's been a tough road thus far for the Crusaders and their 6-foot-2 senior forward.

Elleby is averaging 19.2 points. He recently scored his 1,000th career point. He also made the first three-pointer of his career.

But Delsea, which went 23-5 last season, is off to a 2-3 start, thanks mainly to a difficult out-of-conference schedule.

"We need to play these tough games," Elleby said. "This will prepare us for the state tournament."

Elleby has scored in double figures in every game. He went for 17 in a 100-45 loss to St. Benedict's of Newark, a non-NJSIAA team that is ranked No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps.

Delsea also has lost to Lenape, the No. 7 team in The Inquirer Top 10, as well as Malvern Prep. Both of those of games were at the Board 34 Showcase event at Lenape last week.

"This makes us a better team," Elleby said of scoring 14 in a 40-35 loss to Lenape, which played a lot of zone defense to help keep the Delsea star in check. "We're getting better every day."

Elleby has drawn recruiting interest from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) as well the University of the Sciences. He's known as a clever lefthander with great leaping ability.

"He plays as hard as anybody," Delsea coach Tom Freeman said.

Elleby said he's worked hard to improve his ability to dribble and drive to his right, as well as his outside shot.

"Made my first three-pointer," Elleby said proudly of his shot from distance in a Dec. 20 victory over Williamstown.

Elleby said Delsea's difficult out-of-conference schedule, which includes upcoming games against No. 9 Haddonfield, No. 2 Paulsboro, and perennial power Bishop Eustace, will help him as a player as well as the Crusaders as a team.

"I know I have to raise my game," Elleby said.

Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com,