'The rock ... was Davon'

For Ross, taking on another scorer had the potential to destroy locker room chemistry. With the senior Saddler returning along with guards Jarvis Threatt and Kyle Anderson, Delaware's backcourt was already full of offense.

Ross said it was Saddler who eventually convinced him to offer Usher a roster spot.

"Devon Saddler said, 'We need to take him. It won't be a problem,'" Ross recalled. "I trust Devon. Because he would have been one of the guys most impacted by it, and when he gave the OK and said it would be fine, I knew it was going to work out."

At the time Ross didn't know the impact Usher would have on his program. In just his second game at Delaware, Usher put up 30 points against Charleston Southern.

"He did some things in the game that I had not seen him do in practice," Ross said. "I just saw his natural scoring ability in the game. From that point on, I thought this kid had some stuff with him that's going to allow us to be pretty good, because he's pretty good himself."

On Nov. 12, Saddler, who is now Delaware's all-time leading scorer, was suspended a month for a violation of university and team policies. Usher averaged 19 points in the seven games Delaware played without Saddler, including a 27-point performance in a four-point loss at Villanova, which is now the No. 6 team in the country.

Two months later, Threatt was suspended for a month. Saddler and Usher led Delaware to a 6-2 record without its starting point guard.

"We don't have that record without Davon Usher," Ross said. "The rock, the constant through everything was Davon. And those are times that he really elevated his level of play, when those two guys were out at separate times."

This weekend, eight other teams will attempt to knock off the top-seeded Blue Hens, including No. 2-seeded Towson (22-9), which defeated Delaware on Feb. 17, a game Threatt missed.

No CAA team has beaten Delaware at full strength this season. But with three games standing between Delaware and a CAA title, Usher said it's important that he and Saddler make a point to perform at their best in Baltimore.

"Not too many guys even have a chance to play in front of people in their city, let alone for a conference championship in Division I basketball," he said. "That's just a blessing. It'll be great for us to win in our city."

ptierney@baltsun.com

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