Delong is pouring in over 21 points per game and is leading the Cougars in 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, free throws as well as steals.
But that also means the Player-of-the-Year candidate is garnering extra attention from opposing defenses, and he’s had to cope with that.
“First few games when we started playing league teams, they know where he is at all times. They’re guarding him tight,” SSHS boys basketball coach Kyle Penney said. “It’s a situation where they don’t want him catching the ball to begin with. We go as he goes. The games he’s been successful, we’ve been successful. The games he hasn’t shot the ball well or got the points we need, we haven’t been successful.”
In the two games Delong was held to under 10 points in scoring, it was no surprise Spanish Springs racked up its two lowest points totals of the season. However, even when Delong is putting up 25-plus points, like he has in seven of 13 games this year, that hasn’t always translated to W’s in the win column for the Cougars.
Spanish Springs is looking for a turnaround to the start of the season in which the local squad has accumulated a 7-8 overall record and 2-4 league mark.
Delong is hoping to key that turnaround in his final season with the Purple and White.
“We just need to keep working hard everyday in practice. We need to keep playing physical and defending. There’s only one other senior on the team, and I want to show the younger guys what it’s like to go far in the playoffs, which is something Spanish Springs hasn’t done yet,” Delong said. “This group of guys is my favorite by far. There’s no one guy who brings us down.”
However, it’s going to take more than Delong scoring for the Cougars to get back to the playoffs.
“He needs to be better leader, not just in terms of games but in practice. The kids will respond to what he says,” Penney said. “It’s to the point for us we’re up and we’re down. We’ve beat some good teams when our young guards are consistent. It’s all about consistency. I think if he can become a better leader, that will improve our consistency.
“It’s got to be important to Brandon that it’s not OK for kids to come to practice not wanting to compete. He needs to make that known. He’s got to be the one who says ‘if we’re going to make the playoffs, which I want to do, then this can’t happen.’ He needs to grow in the leadership category, there‘s no doubt.”
Spanish Springs has a big game tonight. A win at home against Reno would go a long way to building some momentum toward a run for a postseason berth.
Delong feels the team is ready to turn a corner.
“We had a rough start. Our first few games we played well, but then we hit a rough patch like every team does,” Delong said. “We just came back from our San Diego trip. It was a good team-bonding experience. We played some tough competition, and we battled. It was a lot of fun. We‘re not in the playoffs now, but I think we can get there.”
Even if Spanish Springs’ push toward the playoffs come up short, Delong could still continue his playing days. He hopes to play in college nearby so his friends and family can watch him. Delong would like to study wildlife preservation, but many schools do not offer that program. He would be willing to major in business and minor in some sort of environmental science in order to give himself more choices.
Penney believes Delong has the skills to play college ball, but the challenge will be finding a team that is recruiting for his position and will offer him the education path Delong desires.
“Brandon has obviously grown over the four years, being a three-year varsity player. He’s multi-dimensional. He’s improved his shot a lot and can make open threes. He’s done a great job attacking the basket as well,” Penney said. “It makes him a tough guard if we can get the right spacing. We can get him open for a catch and shoot, but he can also read the defense and get to the rim…He’s a Division II player for sure. It’s a matter of finding the right fit. Talent wise, absolutely he can play somewhere.”