In November 2009 Saint Mary’s Men’s basketball team had recently been defeated by San Diego State in the schools most successful NIT tournament performance to date.
St Mary’s had finished with 28-7 record (10-4 in their conference) and after a tumultuous season which included Patty Mills missing 9 games with a broken wrist (St Mary’s were 18-2 before Mills injury) the Gaels suffered perhaps one of the largest groups of talent leave its campus at one time since the program’s beginnings.
The most notable departure was Patty Mills, who had single-handedly put Saint Mary’s on the national map after a 37 point performance against Oregon (which ranks sixth all-time on the SMC single game scoring list) before being named WCC Newcomer of the Year in his freshman year and become the first player from St Mary’s to make the NBA since David Cooke in 1986.
Combine this with seniors Diamon Simpson, the school’s all-time leader in rebounds, steals, and blocks, who was graduating and Aussies Carlin Hughes and Lucas Walker who returned home to begin their professional basketball careers.
Three starters were gone from a team that just become the first to reach consecutive postseasons for the first time in the school’s history. To say the Gaels were in a rebuilding phase was an understatement.
Although relatively unknown to the people of Moraga, Dellavedova had earned the attention of the Australian National Team after three strong years at the AIS and a number of great performances on Junior International Teams. It didn’t take long for Dellavedova to introduce himself to the St Mary’s faithful however as he delivered 19 points and four assists in his first game.
Marty Clarke has coached Dellavedova at the AIS, with the under-19s and senior national teams. What stands out to Clarke is Dellavedova’s self-confidence and leadership skills. “He had it all at a young age,” Clarke says. “He’s mature beyond his years. Matt’s strengths are that he wants to win at all costs; he never gives up.”
And now three and a half years later Matthew Dellavedova’s name is all over the Saint Mary’s record books and everyone from Moraga to NBA head offices around the United States knows who he is now.
Perhaps rival coach of Santa Clara Kerry Keating said it best. “He’s the most important player in that program from day one and he’s proven that from day one. He makes their whole deal go,”
He is already the school’s all-time leader in assists. He is sitting at third in all-time steals, first in made three-pointers and he is the Gael’s best free throw shooter.
These numbers haven’t been put up within a mediocre team either… Dellavedova has been to the NCAA Tournament twice, been to the Sweet Sixteen, and has won two WCC conference titles. Saint Mary’s has won 105 games in his four seasons, more than anyone in the team’s history.
The day Dellavedova solidifies himself in the Gaels history has been discussed heavily the past 6 months
Daniel Kickert whose name currently sits atop of the All-Time scorers of St Mary’s is not concerned about passing the torch. “To be honest, I thought he may even be able to have a crack at the 2,000 point mark. Delly is such a humble and modest type guy, he’s just there to get the job done, he’s not shooting for records or (individual) goals and I’ve got no problems at all passing it on to a fellow Victorian”.
Until now Dellavedova has been modest about his rapid ascent to the top of the schools record books but this week he’s opened up about what it will mean to become the All-Time scoring leader for the school where he has spent almost a 5th of his life.
“It’s been on my mind a bit lately,” he said. “Probably a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been counting down the home games because it’s been awesome playing here and I think as a group of seniors, we’re just trying to make the most of it because we know we’re in a special situation.”
If the Gaels make the NCAA Tournament, Saturday will be Dellavedova’s final home game which will be fitting with so much history at stake and even more so with one of their oldest rivals standing in his way.
“He’s extremely passionate and keen to improve. He’s such a competitor. He’s developing an intellect in the point guard position” says former Australian Boomers coach Brett Brown. He likens Dellavedova as a “throwback” to a bygone era of basketball. “He can take a hit, he likes confrontation on the court,” Brown says. “He’s not your finesse, flashy inner-city point guard. He’ll knock your head off.”
Although today is the day Matthew Dellavedova becomes part of the history books, it’s obvious the future has so much more in store for the boy from Maryborough, Victoria.