Where are they now? Savannah's Jalen DeLoach in the transfer portal

By Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report | April 2, 2023

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Savannah’s Jalen DeLoach says he wasn’t looking to change colleges, but here he is in the transfer portal after so many changes around him.

Things can move pretty fast in college athletics, and especially in men’s basketball. So after two seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, the sophomore forward may be starting fresh.

“Our coach left for Penn State, so I entered the portal to weigh my options,” DeLoach said on April 2, his 21stbirthday, during a telephone interview.

Coach Mike Rhoades, the VCU coach since March 2017, filled the vacancy at Penn State on March 29 following one of the Rams’ best seasons. VCU went 27-8 – the most wins there since the 2012-13 season -- captured the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season and tournament crowns and made its third NCAA Tournament appearance under Rhoades. The Rams fell to Saint Mary’s in the first round on March 17.

DeLoach wrote on his Twitter account on March 30 that he was transferring, but first thanked “VCU and RamNation for taking a chance on a kid from Savannah. The relationships and bond I’ve build over these past two years are something I will remember forever.”

He also thanked Rhoades and the staff, his teammates and the fans for “being with us through the ups and downs. I can’t thank y’all enough.”

“I wasn’t planning on transferring from here (VCU),” DeLoach said Sunday. “I was going to stay here for my college career. But Coach (Rhoades) left and Coach was a big part of why I came here. I’ve got to make the right choice for me.”

Logic follows that one choice would be Penn State, and DeLoach has the Nittany Lions program on his top-five list along with Indiana University, the University of Miami, San Diego State University and Florida State University – where his older brother Kalen is a standout redshirt senior linebacker for the football program.

Rhoades announced most of his assistants were following him to PSU in his native Pennsylvania on March 31. DeLoach acknowledges he doesn’t know much about Penn State, but he already knows Rhoades and the new staff.

“He’s a real family guy,” DeLoach said. “He preaches family. I’ve been around teams, but family with Coach Rhoades is a real thing. We’re all brothers around here. We all laugh together. We cry together. The ups and downs. With Coach Rhoades, it’s all love.”

As for the others, DeLoach liked Miami, the proximity to his family in Savannah and Hurricanes' head coach Jim Larranaga.

DeLoach said Indiana was one of the first programs to contact him, he noted that head coach Mike Woodson coached in the NBA, and that the program is losing a lot of players so that could leave a spot for him.

“San Diego State recruited me out of high school, but I guess they had too many players,” DeLoach said of the surprise finalist in the NCAA Tournament championship game Monday.

Florida State is guided by longtime head coach Leonard Hamilton, “a great coach” who runs “a great program,” DeLoach said.

He hasn’t attended school with Kalen since Jalen’s sophomore year at Islands High in 2017-18, he said.

DeLoach said there is the possibility that he could stay at VCU. He said that new head coach Ryan Odom speaks with him every day.

Odom coached the past two seasons at Utah State, making a run to the NCAA Tournament this season. Odom was head coach of the UMBC team that became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed, Virginia, in 2018.

It was during DeLoach’s freshman and sophomore years in high school that he grew from 6-foot to 6-7. He later played basketball at Gray Collegiate Academy in Columbia, S.C., Berkmar High School in Lilburn and a postgraduate year at the Skill Factory in Atlanta.

Now 6-9 and between 220-225 pounds, DeLoach is adding to the athletic legacy of his family that includes football standout Kalen; their oldest sister, Taylor, who starred in track and field at St. Vincent’s Academy and Ohio State; and their parents Ivy and Rob DeLoach. Their father co-founded “The Factory,” which trains young athletes at a gym in Savannah.

Jalen was third-team all-conference in the Atlantic 10 after a breakthrough season in 2022-23. He improved on his freshman numbers (4.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game) when he started one of 31 games and averaged 13.6 minutes.

This season, he started 32 of 34 games and averaged 9.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 24.5 minutes while totaling 47 blocks (up from 27) and 36 steals (up from seven).

“I improved a lot,” he said. “My numbers improved. Everything improved. It was a great season with the Atlantic 10 championship.”

The college basketball world took notice, as has national media. The Athletic in its rankings of players in the transfer portal on Sunday put DeLoach at No. 21. He was called “a very popular portal entry” if he doesn’t follow Rhoades to Penn State.

“… DeLoach blossomed, particularly over the second half of the season, into the kind of versatile big man that schools around the country crave,” wrote the article’s authors, CJ Moore and Sam Vecenie. “It starts on defense for DeLoach, where he was a lengthy, versatile defender that dealt with both bigs on the interior as well as bigger wings and forwards. He’s mobile and extremely active, showcasing a real competitiveness every time he’s on the floor. He gets into passing lanes to try to get steals, then will swat shots on the interior.

“Then on offense, he’s going to try to dunk everything he gets on the interior and finish through contact. He crashes the glass hard, creates second-chance opportunities, and just continually forces his man to keep track of where he is.”

The evaluation concludes: “As he gets stronger and fills out, it’s very easy to imagine him continuing to grow into being a defensive monster at even higher levels.”

DeLoach would love to play at the professional level, but he’s focused on making his next college choice. He said he will probably make a decision by the end of April before the spring semester concludes in May.

Of the glowing comments, DeLoach said, “It’s amazing, but it also comes with a lot of hard work. I put in the hours and things like that. Right now, it’s amazing. I’ve got amazing opportunities.”

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jalen DeLoach social media pages

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The "Coach" Karl DeMasi has been teaching and coaching for the past 35 years on all levels of academia and athletics. One of his hobbies has been writing, announcing and talking about sports. DeMasi has been involved in the Savannah Area sports scene since 1995, and he created the high school magazine "The Prep Sports Report" in 2000. In 2010, the "Coach" started broadcasting The Karl DeMasi Sports Report. He's still going strong, broadcasting on Facebook live and Twitter live every Saturday morning. You gotta love it!

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