Is the Second Year West Coast Native Vermont’s Next Star Guard?
Lightning in a bottle. That’s how you could classify the game of 6’0, 165lbs guard Aaron Deloney. The Portland, Oregon native was electric at times for the Catamounts just a season ago and looks to be a true playmaker at the point for years to come. After a strong finish to end his freshman campaign, the upcoming sophomore appears more than ready to take on a more significant role. Has Vermont found their next star point guard in the pint-sized Deloney?
The former Grant High School standout arrived in Burlington last year with an already stellar resume to boot, which included a state championship and second all-time in school history for points scored (1,823). Like most freshmen, Deloney experienced a few hiccups along the way during his first year as a Catamount. He’d ultimately finish the year with a 3.6 points, 1.1 assists and 1.0 rebounds per game average. Deloney was one of the best new additions to the Cats just a season ago, but it wasn’t until late in the year when he really began to showcase his potential.
A 17 point outing against UMass-Lowell and a 10 point, 8 eight assist performance against Albany were two of Deloney’s finer moments. Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows – Deloney was inconsistent at times and was unable to find the back of the net in 10 of the 31 games he played in. Nonetheless, it was the latter half of the season when Deloney really began to settle in. During the final four game stretch of the season, Deloney averaged 8 points, 3.8 assists, and 1 rebound per game on a 22.8 minute basis. Should these type of numbers be expected for the second year guard?
There’s no doubting Deloney’s talent, along with his ability to excel at the point. Yet, there are a few challenges standing in the way. With a plethora of outstanding guards at their disposal, Vermont has a good problem on their hands in trying to sort out playing time for everyone. Deloney’s up-tempo style of play and potential should get him on the court, but even with his continued development, overtaking starting guards Stef Smith and Benny Shungu seems like a stretch. The quick-twitch guard projects to have a significant impact for the Catamounts next season – what will year two hold in store for Deloney?
How Deloney can Make an Impact
As a freshman, Deloney was able to slowly, yet surely work his way into the rotation. His pace and playmaking abilities off the bench were a nice addition for the Cats, as he was electric to watch at times. Granted, it was inconsistent and Deloney took his fairshare of lumps, but by the end of the year Deloney had showcased enough to prove he’s ready to take on more responsibilities and thus provide a greater impact moving forward. If Deloney can continue his ascension he should easily find himself in contention for the America East Sixth Man of the Year award race.
The Catamounts have a trio of stellar guards in Deloney, Robin Duncan and Justin Mazzulla who will all be leading the charge of the Cats second unit. Deloney might be the most fun to watch out of those aforementioned three, as his pace and quick-twitch play are some of his best attributes. John Becker will likely look to call upon Deloney’s number to initiate the offense when the Cats try to push the tempo. The young guard does an outstanding job at shaking his defender, forcing the defense to collapse and finding the open man. Deloney actually led the Cats bench unit in assists, as his ball handling and court vision skills were a major impact. With Deloney fully immersed in the Cats system and pace of play at the collegiate level, all signs point to an even greater impact in year two.
Along with his court vision, Deloney showed a great deal of confidence with his shooting. As previously mentioned it was inconsistent at times, but instilling confidence in one’s shot – especially at the freshman level can seem insurmountable. Don’t get it twisted, Deloney wasn’t out there jacking up every shot you could imagine, it was more a belief that every shot he took he knew he was capable of making. That type of scorer’s mentality should pay dividends as Deloney takes on a larger role and becomes a more focal point of the second unit.
Room for Improvement?
As a freshman it was clear to see Deloney has talent. If not for his undersized stature, it’s likely the Portland native would be playing at a high-major program, but the Catamount faithful are more than happy to reap the benefits of those other schools misfortunes of passing on Deloney. However, despite the potential Deloney possesses, it’s still a work in progress. Continuing to hone his craft across various aspects of his game will happen over time. But what are some particular facets that Deloney should focus on this summer?
The shooting inconsistencies should be a point of emphasis. After finishing his freshman campaign with a 25% clip from beyond the arc it would be wise for Deloney to work on his outside shot a bit more. Vermont is in need of three-point shooting now that Everett Duncan will be moving on. Likewise, the Cats don’t have someone on the second unit who has shown that they can consistently knock down the long ball. Ideally Deloney will be able to bump those numbers up to around 30% next year with an even stronger bench unit surrounding him.
Besides the three-point stroke, Deloney should look to boost his percentage from the charity stripe. Last season, Deloney shot 71% from the stripe and while that isn’t terrible by any means, his PPG average could see a nice bump if he can get that up over 80% next year. We know Deloney is fearless with the rock in his hands and will charge head first into the paint. Because of his size and athleticism, Deloney should be able frustrate defenders and ultimately draw them into foul trouble. Similarly, due to his speed John Becker has already used Deloney in late game situations to elude his defender and chew clock before they send him to the line. If he can become automatic in crunch time he’ll find himself with the ball in his hands more often than not in those closing seconds.
Finally, the last area of focus should be continuing to build up his frame and muscle to better handle the physicality of division one basketball. This was the biggest question for many pundits a season ago as no one was quite sure if the lightning bug guard could withstand the bigger and stronger style of play. Credit to Deloney, as not once did he ever back down from challenge or admit that he’d been beat. Obviously he knows better than anyone what his liabilities are and how to position himself so he isn’t exposed, but it’s still a challenge. With an even bigger role and opportunity ahead of him, Deloney would be wise to spend some extra time in the kitchen and weight room to build that frame up so he can handle the additional workload.
There’s a few individual goals for Deloney that were just briefly mentioned such as raising his shooting percentage across the board. Even without being known as a three-point specialist, Deloney will likely lead the bench unit in three-point field goals. A good goal for the young guard will be to build upon this even further and finish top three on the team in total makes from beyond the arc. Stef Smith will undoubtedly finish first on that list, but a mix of Deloney, Ryan Davis, Bernie Andre and possibly Ben Shungu round out the rest of the contenders. This type of goal is more than attainable and one that Deloney should put his time and energy into.
Due to the significant depth Vermont possesses at guard it’s difficult to envision Deloney averaging over 20 minutes per contest. He’ll be right on the cusp, but unless he seriously breaks out or injuries strike, he likely won’t be crossing the 20 mpg threshold every night. With that being said, another goal for the 2020-21 season should be to play in every game. Last year only four players on the team managed to accomplish that feat (Lamb, Ev. Duncan, Smith, Patella) over the course of the 33 game schedule. Showcasing that availability and consistency every night throughout the season would be a great sign for Deloney’s development, as he’ll look to tackle an even bigger role come 2021.
During his freshman campaign Deloney would earn America East Rookie of the Week honors just once, but with such a limited role to begin the season it was an uphill for Deloney to be acknowledged for any such accomplishment. That narrative could change this year. Even with a great bench mob in tow, Deloney should find himself in contention for America East Sixth Man of the Year honors. The Cats are widely considered the top team in the conference and if Deloney can lead the entire bench unit in categories such as scoring, assists, steals and three-point shooting, he’ll no doubt be in consideration for the prestigious award.
The 2020-21 season presents a great opportunity for Deloney to build off his success from last year’s finish. If all goes according to plan, Deloney will be an impact player for the Cats this year and ideally parlay that into a starting role come 2021. Star point guard and potential America East Player of the Year, Stef Smith, is a phenomenal mentor for Deloney to lean on and will hopefully share all his wisdom before handing Deloney the keys to the car.
During that final four game stretch of the 2019-20 season Deloney averaged 22.8 minutes a game with two of those contests coming during the Cats run in the America East playoffs. It’s clear that the young guard has earned the trust of John Becker and the rest of his teammates, but don’t expect to see him on the court for almost 23 minutes a game this year. Deloney proved that he can handle the extended floor time, yet there’s just too many pieces that need to fit into this puzzle.
Vermont’s depth at guard is arguably the strongest it’s ever been, as they’re led by America East Player of the Year frontrunner Stef Smith and current America East Defensive Player of the Year Benny Shungu. Deloney, Duncan and Mazzulla could all start for the majority, if not all of the America East teams in a heartbeat. It can be frustrating to accept a lesser role when it’s clear that the talent level is there, but these are the types of challenges every highly successful program must endure. By all means the comradery the Cats share is a huge reason for why they’ve been able to maintain their level of success throughout the years and will hopefully continue in the years to come.
Deloney might have to take a backseat at times this year, but with a tremendous roster and leadership in place the Cats are the perennial favorites to make it back to the NCAA Tournament once again. This is the perfect opportunity for Deloney to become a vocal leader in the second unit before he takes full control of the point come 2021. Call this man Static Shock cause he’s electric on the court.
2020-21 Statistical Predictions
- 18.2 minutes per game
- 5.9 points per game
- 2.4 assists per game
- 1.2 rebounds per game