Lucy Del Deo has accomplished a lot in her three seasons at Bronx Science.
She arrived as a freshman and helped the Wolverines claim the Bronx A South Division championship, blossomed as a sophomore when Science fell just a game shy of winning back-to-back division titles, and is currently a veteran leader on a Wolverines team that has started the season 5-0 and owns a share of first place in the division.
So why is Del Deo, along with fellow junior core players Carolina Lopez and Sarang West, spending good chunks of the third and fourth quarter of games watching from the Science bench?
Two reasons. First, five straight blowout victories has led to a good amount of garbage time play in the early portion of the season. And, second, the emergence of a very talented freshman class which has allowed Del Deo, Lopez and West to kick back become late-game cheerleaders.
And Del Deo is not complaining at all.
“That just shows the level that our freshmen are at,” Del Deo said. “They’re showing what they can do and that they don’t need a (veteran) on the floor to be able to perform well. I’m really proud of them.”
So far this season the Wolverines’ five games have resembled glorified scrimmages as Science has defeated its opponents by an average score of 62-24. Hence the reason why the freshman quartet of Lilly Flynn, Kiele Morgan, Carlissa Santina and Lucy Paolini have logged such extensive playing time. And that experience is making for a much deeper and more dangerous Bronx Science team.
“This is definitely the fastest team that we’ve had in my three years here, and coach (Michael Mei) has said this is the fastest team he’s ever had,” Del Deo said. “We’re really athletic, and all the freshmen really come to work every day. We also know that, in our division, the competition isn’t really as stiff as some other divisions. So in order to prepare the freshmen for later on down the line, we like to put them in a bunch of these games to get experience. And they’ve really been killing it out on the floor.”
The latest to kill it was Flynn, who dropped 14 points on South Bronx in a 60-23 Science win early last week. But it’s not all just about the freshmen. Sophomore Anna Vikatos is another young player making her presence known this season, erupting for 18 points in the Wolverines’ 69-22 rout of Columbus to complete a 2-0 week for Bronx Science.
Those types of performances have only made Del Deo that much more of a supporter.
“Lilly comes in, in the mornings and she works out before school starts. She’s really amazing and really dedicated,” Del Deo said. “She’s incredibly athletic, and she’s been a major source of our points. And Anna really worked on her shot over the summer and got a ton better. She’s really stepping it up and really earned her starting spot. Just seeing the change in her from last year when she was a scared little freshman to now where she’s attacking people, I just love it.”
Like most head coaches, Mei sees areas on his team that need improvement, despite the Wolverines’ 5-0 start. But he feels fortunate to be able to get his young players more floor time early in the season, which he says, will benefit Science come playoff time.
“We’ve had an easy stretch to start the season,” Mei said. “Do I think we’re 25 points better than every team we’re going to face this year? Not even close. But we’re starting to do more things correctly and starting to execute at a more consistent rate.
“But it’s all about the development of the younger players. These reps are important for them.”
Bronx Science had three games scheduled this week before breaking for Christmas, beginning with road games at KIPP on Dec. 16 and at Kennedy on Dec. 17 before closing out the semester with a home game versus Longwood on Dec. 19.
Three more chances to pad the win total. Three more chances for the Wolverines’ young players to impress their veteran teammates. And three more chances for Del Deo, Lopez and West to call it a day early, kick their feet up on the bench, and watch the next generation of Wolverines continue to grow.
“What’s really great about this bunch is that they are all excited to be here,” Del Deo said. “For a lot of them, this is their first time playing varsity basketball. But for me, Sarang and Carolina to watch this, it never gets old.”