December 30, 2009 10:36:00 AM
Darian Donald has taken the next step in his college basketball career.
Now, the former Caledonia High School and East Mississippi Community College player is ready to make an impact at Mississippi Valley State University.
Donald has started the past two games for the Delta Devils, and wants to prove to coach Sean Woods that he deserves to stay there.
"There are players on this team who are good at what they do, so for me to start is a privilege," Donald said. "I have to get in the gym more often. I do now, but I have to get in more because at this level, you have to put in the work all of the time. You can''t take any days off."
After transferring from EMCC, Donald found a faster-paced game at the four-year Southwestern Athletic Conference school.
Woods said that''s an adjustment all of the junior college transfers have to make, but he believes Donald will improve.
"It''s taking them a little while to adapt on how tough you''ve got to be, especially from a defensive standpoint," Woods said. "He''s not scoring the ball yet the way I''d like him to, but that will come. He''s just got to get tougher defensively.
"Now that he''s starting, this is the time I think he''s going to turn it on. I think his best basketball is yet to come."
Donald tied a career-high with four rebounds Monday in a 73-45 loss to Mississippi State. He hit a career-high three field goals for seven points Dec. 19 at Oregon State.
Known as a 3-point shooter at EMCC, Donald is 1 of 18 from long range at MVSU.
"I''ve had to pull my game in some so I can work my way back out," Donald said.
Woods said Donald''s ability to shoot the ball can stretch a defense, but he wants him to find other ways to help the Delta Devils during his shooting struggles.
"He needs to start driving and giving us more offensive rebounds and more defensive rebounds, too," Woods said. "He''s got to be a guy we can get steals from and other things on the defensive end."
Donald is roommates with Orlando Smith, who attended Columbus High School.
Smith, a junior forward, will play in his first game of the season Jan. 4 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Greenville.
Woods hopes Donald and Smith will help the Delta Devils (1-12) reverse their fortunes.
"We are on the right path," Woods said. "We have had a few guys out and now everyone is back and playing to their potential. The chemistry is coming, and we have hopes of making the NCAA tournament."