Feb. 14, 2006
By Tom Acox - "How many did he get tonight?" asks Saint Joseph's 6-10 senior power forward Dave Mallon. "One shot in 30 minutes," was the reply after the Saint Louis game. Ian Vouyoukas of Saint Louis was shadowed by Mallon and held to just one shot all game in the 54-39 Saint Joseph's win.
Mallon checks the boxscore right after games like most players but he probably doesn't even know he is averaging career highs in points and rebounds. What he does see is that he has shut down outstanding scorers such as Charlotte's Curtis Withers (5 for 11 from the field) and La Salle's Steven Smith (4 of 14 field goals). Mallon has suffered through some injuries in his career. He has also never been a big scorer. "Guys used to get on me about that but I've learned to play my game and not let it bother me." It's that attitude that has him averaging nearly double the minutes this year that he played as a freshman.
Six years ago just down the road from his home in East Aurora, NY, Mallon sat in the stands of the HSBC Arena in Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament with some of his AAU teammates. He remembers wondering aloud to his then teammates what it would be like play there. Four years later, as a sophomore at St. Joe's, Mallon walked out to mid-court of the HSBC Arena and the wondering was over. At the University of Buffalo - six and a half hours from Philly - the stands were packed with red-shirt clad screaming fans for the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. "It was like our homecourt," says Mallon reflecting back.
Two years have passed since the Hawks' undefeated season in 2003-2004 and Mallon is still the only one of his AAU buddies to have seen action in the tourney back in Buffalo. "I just feel very lucky to have had that opportunity so early in my career."
The team's success early on in Mallon's career was real on-the-job training. He saw only a little over 10 minutes a game but started 29 of the 30 games for the team.
Today, Mallon credits his new found defensive force on the court to his old teammates John Bryant and Dwayne Jones. He spent the first three years of his career banging against the 6-11, 250 pound Jones in the paint and chasing the speedy 6-8' Bryant around at practice. "Learning against those guys was great practice - D.J. is so big and strong and John is faster than a lot of the guards we play."
Aside from his physical presence on the court Mallon has also become much more audible. "When I first came up I figured the older guys like Jameer [Nelson] would be doing all of the talking but over time Jameer used to get on me about being more vocal and these past two years I feel a lot more comfortable with that role."
Don't get it wrong - Mallon does have a self described "loudness" and he has always been a big communicator on the court. He recalls a game from his high school days on an All-Star team which also featured current teammates Dwayne Lee and Chet Stachitas. He spent the whole game screaming "Billy I'm open, Billy on the wing!" He never got the ball and recalls nearly being horse from yelling.
About a year after the All-Star game Mallon attended his orientation at St. Joe's and quickly recognized Billy from the team. He went over and said hello but was met with a puzzled look. "It was Chet and he was like 'What the hell, my name's not Billy'. Turns out people were calling him Billy Hoyle - the Woody Harrelson character from the film "White Men Can't Jump" - and I had no idea. I guess that's why he never heard me yelling on the wing."
These days Mallon knows his teammates very well and has stepped up defensively and was named a tri-captain for 2005-2006 season. He's cherishing his last season and says the best feeling is walking out to center court before a game. "Before the Gonzaga game they were singing whatever song their fans sing and it was so loud it got us all fired up. It was such a rush."
That rush is what may lead Mallon overseas for some time in European leagues. "I'm not ready for a real job yet," says the marketing major. He still has a handful of games left at SJU and is hopeful for some post season play as well. "We have seen more in our four years then some people could see in their lifetime."
This would be a tough point to argue as the optimistic Mallon adds "I came to Philly and got away from the snow in Buffalo but St. Joe's with all its old stone architecture reminded me of home. This has been an amazing time for me."