Favorite athlete: Jake Voracek
Favorite team: Arsenal F.C.
Favorite memory competing in sports: Senior Night win versus Pennridge
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When I gashed my eyebrow at a summer tournament and had to wear this head wrap that made me look like a pirate.
Music on mobile device: Rap, 80s, and a little Folk
Future plans: Study Mechanical Engineering and Political Science at Boston University
Words to live by: Daniel 6:23
One goal before turning 30: Visit all seven continents.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m training for my Private Pilot’s License.
By Ed Morrone
The Central Bucks West boys basketball team has soared to a 19-win season, and it’s safe to say the Bucks couldn’t have gotten this far without Stephen DeLash, who knows a thing or two about flying high.
No, DeLash isn’t the team’s top scorer, rebounder or passer; in fact, he doesn’t always see the court, so you aren’t likely to see DeLash’s name stuffing the box score. However, it’s easy to forget there are usually at least a dozen players on a basketball team, if not more, and each plays a pivotal role in his team’s success or failure.
DeLash is an especially fascinating case.
When he’s not playing basketball, the senior spends his spare time doing mission work with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Hilltown Township, or training to obtain his private pilot’s license. DeLash brings a maturity beyond his years to the Bucks program, and his unselfish nature has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the West roster.
“One of the hardest parts about coaching basketball is that, unlike football, there aren’t 11 guys on the field,” Bucks head coach Adam Sherman said. “There are five spots, and the games are relatively short with four eight-minute quarters, so it’s hard to give great opportunities to every kid. I give a lot of credit to Steve for showing up every day to battle hard in practice.
“A lot of kids who come in as a freshman and don’t see a lot of time, they drop off the team by the time they are seniors when they don’t see opportunities they were hoping for. Steve has found his role and is an important piece of our puzzle.”
And to think, DeLash carving out his niche with the Bucks hoops program almost didn’t happen`. He was a baseball player much of his youth, playing travel and AAU ball starting at eight years old. DeLash’s dad played baseball at West, and the son figured he would follow in the footsteps of his father. DeLash played some fall ball with the Bucks’ baseball program when he first got to high school, but then, going into the winter of his freshman year, his mother encouraged him to try out for the basketball team. He didn’t think much of it at the time.
“I just kind of said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a shot,’” DeLash recalls now. “Coach Sherman saw something in me and decided to give me a shot. Once I was lucky enough to make the team, I started liking basketball more than baseball. We have such a special basketball program, and I really loved my teammates. I also had never really experienced that level of competition before, and so I decided to fully commit myself to basketball.”
And while DeLash doesn’t get a ton of minutes for the Bucks, his true value to the program is measured behind closed doors during practices. One of the team’s most tenacious, hard-working defenders, DeLash routinely guards two of West’s top players, Collin MacAdams and Jake Reichwein, making them earn every point and rebound. Sparring with MacAdams (a D-II commit to California University of Pennsylvania) and Reichwein — who will play D-I college football at Holy Cross — on a daily basis often leaves DeLash bruised and battered, but the punishment is worthwhile considering it’s making both he and his teammates better.
“It does get rough sometimes,” DeLash said with a laugh. “But I wouldn’t change anything, because I feel like as long as I’m giving everything I have, then so will C-Mac and Jake. I want to challenge those guys to be their best, because that’s going to help our team win. Even when it does get rough in practice, we all get along.”
DeLash has come a long way as a player since his days as a lanky freshman buried at the end of the JV bench. He’s sprung to a 6-foot-2 frame and has bulked up in the weight room to around 175 pounds. DeLash prides himself on always being in the right spot on the floor defensively, and he’s perfected the corner three-point ball. And all of this is not to say DeLash never sees the court, as he helped fill in when teammate Shane McCusker went down with an injury. However, he knows his role, and it’s one that is instrumental to the Bucks’ success.
“For me it’s obviously never been about scoring points or getting the most assists,” he said. “Being a part of this team has taught me perseverance and patience. Scoring isn’t what makes me happy; what makes me happy is coming home from practice knowing I gave everything I had to make myself and my team better. That’s just who I am, and it’s made these last four years special knowing how much I helped them.”
DeLash referred to his unexpected basketball odyssey as humbling, which certainly matches his personality when you spend some time talking to him. DeLash’s Catholic faith plays an integral role in his life, and it’s given him an important perspective on the world and what real struggle looks like.
DeLash spoke of week-long summer trips he would take with his church mission group to Louisa, Kentucky, a town of about 2,500 near the West Virginia border. Almost a third of Louisa’s population lives below the poverty line, and what struck DeLash the most about the town’s denizens is how they found fulfillment in life despite having next to nothing.
“It’s a very humbling experience to see people living in these run-down mobile homes, people who live with basically nothing,” he said. “But God is such a huge part of their lives, and they are always so happy to see us when we visit.
“It taught me to be happy for what I do have, and that our problems here are very first-world ones. These people have practically nothing, but they still manage to find happiness in family and in Jesus. I find it special that they can find so much joy even though they’re obviously having a lot more trouble than I am.”
DeLash also spends some Sundays with his team teaching children with special needs the game of basketball. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they make a basket, or the smiles of those who live in Louisa, makes not getting a ton of minutes during a high school basketball game seem like a great problem to have.
Sherman sees the maturity in DeLash too, and he’s thrilled to have such a high-character kid in his corner.
“Steve sees the bigger picture and has a better perspective on who he is and how he can have an influence on others,” Sherman said. “He’s been involved in a lot of things with his church and working with special needs kids, and you see in that almost everything he’s done, he’s never made it about him. What he cares about is how his selfless acts make people in his community better.”
The Bucks are the No. 4 seed in the upcoming District 1 Class 6A tournament, and they will host the first-round winner of Central Bucks East-Owen J. Roberts on Tuesday. They experienced a deep PIAA tournament run during DeLash’s sophomore campaign, but there’s something about this group, during his senior season, that has proven to be the cherry on top of a truly wonderful high school experience.
Just as his teammates have, DeLash feels he has come a long way as both a basketball player and a person in that time.
“Selflessness comes down to learning more about yourself than just how to dribble and shoot a basketball,” he said. “It comes down to helping others around you get better, as opposed to looking out for your own shots or personal glory. That’s the attitude I’ve tried to bring to this program. I think being selfless has helped others grow more; it’s helped me, too.
“This team means so much to me. The relationships and bonds I’ve built with my coaches and teammates are so strong. Being here for four years, even knowing that I’m not going to play a lot in the playoffs, has only strengthened how proud I am of this team and how far we’ve all come together.”
DeLash has a ton of confidence in everything he does, and that certainly extends far beyond the basketball court. He’s set to attend Boston University in the fall, where he plans to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in political science. His math and science acumen supports his major choice, but DeLash also has a strong interest in reading, writing, politics and current affairs, hence the pull toward political science.
He wants to learn more about rockets and engines, propulsions and aerodynamics. In fact, DeLash is so passionate about this field that he is 25 hours into a 40-hour training regimen to earn his private pilot’s license. Yes, that’s right: a high school senior likes to fly airplanes — real airplanes — in his free time.
“I had my first solo trip back in October,” DeLash says with pride. “Once you leave the ground, it’s an amazing feeling, but also a really scary, mentally draining one. Being in a plane powered by a single propeller that’s twice my age, it’s just shown me how important mental awareness is. You have to constantly watch the gauges and make sure the engine is running right, because you never know when something could go wrong. You really have to be on your toes at all times.”
It’s clear that DeLash is going to soar to lofty heights, both figuratively and literally, beyond high school, but that doesn’t mean he’s in any particular rush for his time at West to be over. He still wants to spend as much time with his best friends, who he never would have met otherwise had he not followed his mother’s advice to try out for the basketball team.
Oh, right: DeLash also hopes the Bucks win some games as well, in both the District and PIAA tournaments.
“We want to shock the world, but at the same time we realize we have to take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead,” he said.
DeLash will miss his high school, even if he is very excited to get to Boston in the fall. His head coach will miss having him around, too, as DeLash is the rare case of the player who cares more about making his teammates better than he does himself.
“As a coach, you put kids in a lot of adverse situations,” Sherman said. “Seeing those extreme highs and lows, you get to know the person’s character. I have no doubt Steve will be extremely successful in life, just because he’s willing to work hard and invest the time in everything he does. His work ethic is on display every day, and he’s the perfect example of the qualities you need to have in order to be successful.”
No matter how DeLash’s high school roller coaster ride ends, he’s just happy he got on in the first place.
“I’m going to miss the challenge, because it really has been a challenging four years,” he said. “I’m so proud at how far I’ve come. My main goal for the time I have left is to show the younger guys coming through the program, guys who might be on JV and not play a lot, that it’s about so much more than learning to dribble, shoot and play defense.
“I want them to embrace it and learn some valuable life skills on the ride up if they are guys like me. You might not play much in games, but you will learn about perseverance, dedication and patience. If some younger guys can absorb that and follow my path, that would be something truly special.”