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Nova Scotian Darling hopes to lead Fightin' Blue Hens to March Madness

Villanova forward Jermaine Samuels (23) defends Delaware guard Nate Darling (3) during the first half of the Never Forget Tribute Classic NCAA college basketball game in Newark, N.J., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Corey Sipkin
March 07, 2020 - 10:09 AM

Nate Darling was only allowed to shoot hoops in his driveway between certain times while growing up in Halifax.

The neighbours didn't take kindly to the rhythmic "thunk" of the ball at all hours.

"My mom says that the neighbours would set rules for when I was allowed to shoot," Darling laughed.

It didn't deter the shooting specialist and Delaware junior, who's having a standout NCAA season for the Fightin' Blue Hens. He'd simply head to the nearby high school and shovel snow off the court. He'd be out there until his numb hands couldn't handle any more.

"From a young age, I was just kind of like my dedication," Darling said. "In the summertime, my dad or mom would drop me off at the Rec Centre before work and then come pick me up after work. (And in winter), I would go until my hands got too cold."

The six-foot-five guard, who earned all-CAA conference first-team honours on Friday, will lead Delaware on Sunday in its quest for a berth in March Madness. The fifth-seeded Blue Hens take on No. 4 Charleston in Washington on Sunday in the CAA tournament opener. The semifinals are Monday, and the finals on Tuesday.

Darling, who played for the Canadian team alongside fellow Halifax native Lindell Wigginton that won a historic gold at the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2017 in Egypt, has been lighting up the NCAA this season. For a six-game stretch in January and February, Darling scored more points — 182 — than any other player.

"It's always cool to see myself at the top of the NCAA," Darling said. "I've always in my head have had the confidence where I really think I'm the best shooter in the country. But, then to have the actual stats to back it up, for me to be in the talk of being the best shooter in the country, it's kind of cool."

Darling was averaging a sizzling 57 per cent from long distance earlier in the season, but said his three-point shooting has been off in the past few games.

Still, he's tied for seventh in the NCAA with 99 three-pointers. His 39.8 per cent from behind the arc ranks him 34th. He recently set a school record for consecutive free throws with 38.

The 21-year-old left home at 15 to attend DeMatha Catholic high school in Maryland. He played two seasons at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, starting in all but one game in his sophomore season. But Darling said the school's post-oriented style didn't suit his game, so he transferred to Delaware and red-shirted last season.

"Here (in Delaware), we get up and down a lot," he said. "And I took like 100 more threes this year than I did (in his last season at UAB). So that's kind of the play style I wanted."

Darling has mixed feelings about sitting out last season. He would've loved to be on the floor, but valued the time to get better.

"I enjoyed just being able to focus on getting better and not worrying about games, and scouting and the pressure and stuff and so it was a good year just to work on myself and really prepare and get good chemistry with the guys that I could kind of come into this year with a head start," Darling said.

At the youth level, Darling led Nova Scotia to a U17 Canadian national championship, scoring 50 points in the final game to earn MVP honours.

A record 150 Canadian men tipped off this NCAA season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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