DeVaughn Mallory (above) is putting together an All-American type season as a senior at Jefferson. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Jefferson coach Herb Magee impatiently paced up and down the sideline, barking in frustration and pleading for a basket.
It wasn’t a dire situation by any means — the Rams trailed 5-0, just three-plus minutes into Wednesday night’s game against Goldey-Beacom — but Magee was clearly anxious for his team to break that dam.
Fittingly, that task fell to DaVaughn Mallory.
The senior slashed in from the corner, grabbing a pass from point guard Deondre Bourne and laying the ball home.
A few minutes later, with the Rams just 1-of-8 from the field, it was Mallory who came through again, throwing down a dunk that brought life to the home crowd.
And on a night when No. 23 Jefferson was far from its best, pulling out a 64-52 win late, Mallory continued to do his thing. With eight of the Rams’ first 10 points and 19 for the night, not to mention 14 rebounds — both of which were game highs — the Smyra, Del., native is once again the centerpiece of a Jefferson team that appears poised for a deep postseason run.
“He’s a deadly shooter,” Magee said of Mallory. “If we do shooting games, he could go the entire drill without missing a jump shot from 15, 16 feet. Now, he’s not a guy you want to bounce back behind the 3-point line, but [in the midrange], he can knock them down.”
That was the skill that most stood out to Magee and the Rams’ staff three years ago when they were recruiting Mallory. The 6-foot-7 swingman played his first two collegiate seasons at Division I Delaware State before entering the transfer portal.
“It was weird,” Mallory said of his time at Delaware State. “I really wanted to play. But with my personality and mentality, I learned just to be very patient.”
Jefferson hadn’t courted Mallory on his first go-round, but when the 2014-15 Delaware Gatorade boys’ basketball player of the year went back on the market, he was drawing interest from Divison II programs up and down the east coast.
Yet, Mallory landed just 70 miles from home, joining Jefferson at the start of the 2017-18.
And although he could’ve played right away — players who transfer down from Division I are immediately eligible — Mallory sat out the season with a shoulder injury, testing his patience once again.
Now, it’s paying off for the health science major. With the chance to spread out his classes, Mallory, who wants to become a trainer when his career is over, has been able to dedicate even more time to basketball.
Plus, it helps having a Hall of Fame coach like Magee around.
“Everybody is treated equally. He gets on everybody on different days,” Mallory said when asked about playing for Magee. “I’m sure a lot of people say the same thing, but it’s a lot of fun, he teaches us different things. … At the end of the day, it pays off.”
By the time Mallory got back on the floor last winter, he flashed the skillset that many saw during his high school days at Polytech. Mallory started all 30 games for the Rams, nearly averaging a double-double (16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds) while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and nearly 85 percent at the charity stripe.
Those numbers parlayed into first-team All-CACC honors, but not a postseason bid. With a loss to Dominican in the conference tournament semifinals, Jefferson missed out on the NCAA tournament.
It makes for a little extra fuel as Mallory and the Rams get another crack at Dominican Saturday when the teams meet in the NCAA Division II Showcase.
“We basically got punked by Dominican,” Mallory said. “Of course, the national championship is the goal, but most of all, getting to the NCAA tournament is what we want.”
If Mallory keeps it up, there’s no doubt that’s attainable for Jefferson. In his senior season, Mallory is shooting 57.7 percent, putting him among the top 40 in the nation, and his 9.9 rebounds are good for 15th among all Division II players.
And at 14-2, with a 7-0 conference mark, the Rams are off to their best start since 2015-16, when they ended January at 17-4.
But if Jefferson is going to stay hot, it’ll need its defense — which ranks 15th in points per game allowed — to continue to shoulder the load.
It’s also where Magee believes Mallory can get even better.
“He needs improvement on the defensive end,” Magee said. “He'd be the first one to tell you that he’s got to get better defensively. And he’s trying — he actually should be a better defender than he is because he’s an athletic kid.”
What all this leads to remains unclear. It’s reasonable to think Mallory will be in the mix for All-American honors by season’s end, and Magee believes that he’ll have a chance to go play basketball abroad after graduating.
But with the season’s homestretch squarely on the horizon, there’s little time for Mallory to think about what comes next.
“Whatever accolades or awards they give out, I’ll be grateful for but that’s not on my mind,” Mallory said. “My mind is just to keep winning.”