Two years and five inches ago, Will Darley was a Division II player at best. The 6-foot-3 guard was a top player for Dulaney, but his recruitment was limited to DIII schools and a handful of DIIs.
The player Ed Huckaby Jr. saw this summer, however, bore little resemblance to the one-time Lions star. Playing with Crusader Nation on the AAU circuit, Darley had sprouted into a 6-foot-8, 190-pound forward with guard skills. Huckaby, the coach of Fishburne (Va.) Military Academy’s post-grad basketball program, was blown away by Darley’s game, as were several mid-major college coaches.
On Sunday, Darley’s rapid rise from an unknown, undersized prospect into a no-brainer DI player ended with his commitment to UMBC.
“It feels great. It’s been a long process, so I’m glad to get it done,” Darley said. “Obviously being local, I’ve been around there. But to be honest, I hadn’t [really explored the] campus before. It was a surprise to see how big it is. All the facilities are really nice. It was sort of interesting that somewhere so close can be so undiscovered.”
Darley, who grew to 6-7 by the start of 12th grade, had a monster senior season for Dulaney, averaging around 21 points and seven rebounds. But despite his production and size, recruiting didn’t pick up. With that in mind, Darley hit the AAU circuit with Crusader Nation and decided to find a prep school.
Huckaby, a former DI assistant for 11 years, discovered Darley when he was recruiting Crusader Nation point guard and Milford Mill grad Chase Cormier.
“I’m looking at this 6-7, long, lanky kid running the floor and shooting the ball,” Huckaby said. “I sat there thinking, ‘Who is this kid?’ What happened was I just kind of followed him. I made it my priority to recruit him, get him to come to prep school. He was definitely a guy who could play mid-major basketball. I don’t think I was wrong.”
Former Milford Mill and current Friends coach Albert Holley, who guided Crusader Nation’s 17-and-under team, gave Darley a sterling recommendation to Huckaby and college coaches. Florida Gulf Coast, Holy Cross, Lipscomb, LIU-Brooklyn and Lafayette were among the schools to recruit the Dulaney grad.
“Coach Holley … really helped me a lot. The summer is really when it all started happening,” Darley said. “I knew I’d be playing Division I basketball. It was just a matter of where. UMBC came in and felt like the right fit.”
UMBC got involved with Darley “two or three weeks ago,” with Retrievers coach Randy Monroe and assistant Walt Fuller scouting the forward at Fishburne, where he has begun his prep-school year. Monroe later resigned two days before the official start of practice, but interim coach Aki Thomas continued the Retrievers’ pursuit of Darley.
“Coach Thomas and [assistant coach Jay] Greene came back up, reassured me the offer is still there,” Darley said. “Coach Thomas told me even though he has the interim tag, he’s pretty positive that it will be removed and he’ll be my coach. That made me feel good.”
With the impending graduation of Brian Neller, Darley said he will be counted on to fill that role as a shooting forward who can stretch defenses and get up and down the floor with ease. Huckaby likes the fit for both parties.
“He can really shoot the ball deep,” Huckaby said. “He just knows how to play. He has a very high basketball IQ. Is it a very good fit? Oh, most definitely. He’s going to be one of the cornerstones that they want to build on and take that program forward. I know it’s fallen on hard times. The only thing you can do with the new coach is get that thing turned around, make the players that they have now better and recruit better.”
Darley, who’s set to begin his post-grad season later this month, said he’s relieved to be done with recruiting, and excited to embark on his college career next fall close to home.
“[My family and friends are] all real excited,” Darley said. “My parents, if I’m happy, they’re happy. It’s been good. … I’m happy with where I’m at.”
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