Monmouth sophomore emerges as vital cog as Scots qualify for MWC playoffs

Barry McNamara
Special to the Register Mail
Declan Flynn drives to the basket Nov. 29, 2022 during Monmouth College's home game against Lake Forest.

MONMOUTH — Monmouth College sophomore Declan Flynn can be described as a streak shooter, and the former United High School star is definitely riding a hot streak as the Fighting Scots gear up for the Midwest Conference tournament.

Winners of four of their last six games, the Scots have earned one of four berths in the Midwest Conference tournament, which will be hosted Feb. 24-25 by Illinois College, which has clinched the regular-season title.

Flynn can trace his most recent hot streak to a Jan. 14 home game against Ripon. In that six-point Scots’ victory, the 6-foot-5 guard netted 10 points, kicking off his current nine-game string that has seen him average 12.9 points per game.

Flynn was so hot, in fact, that he was named the MWC’s Performer of the Week in late January. He set a new career high with 21 points at Lake Forest during a mid-week victory, then topped that with 25 points in the Scots’ first meeting of the season against Knox. Flynn closed the first half of the latter game with 10 straight points — two three-pointers and a pair of shots in the lane. His first triple gave Monmouth a lead it would hold the rest of the way.

“Definitely the Knox game — to score 20 points in a half is pretty memorable,” said Flynn when asked which of the two games was the most significant to him. He said the Fire’s fans also had a little to do with his strong showing.

“Their student section was pretty big,” he said. “They were heckling us, and I remember looking back at them after I made a few shots. When the other team’s fans are like that, it brings out the competitive side in me.”

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“Declan’s starting to find some consistency,” said Monmouth coach Todd Skrivseth. “As a coach, that’s what you’re looking for. ‘What can I count on from this player night in and night out?’ He’s starting to display that type of consistency.”

Flynn’s career high climbed another point two games later, as he led all Monmouth players with 26 points against Grinnell.

“Our team’s finally clicking,” said Flynn, “and the ball just seems to be finding me. The team trusts me, and I want to score for them. As long as we win games, I’m happy.”

Streak shooters also have moments when their shot isn’t falling, and that was the case for Flynn leading up to the Jan. 14 game. He scored just six points in a five-game span while hitting only 3-of-23 field goal attempts.

“It reminds me a lot of high school,” said Flynn of his recent upswing. “Once I got some experience, the game started to slow down for me, and I got very comfortable.”

Comfortable enough to shoot 18-of-26 from the floor during his award-winning week, including 8-of-12 beyond the arc. That long-range accuracy enabled him to score 46 points in a very efficient manner.

“He’s always been a good shooter,” said Skrivseth. “It’s a matter of getting a feel for when to shoot and knowing when the opportunities come in a game.”

“My confidence is at an all-time high right now,” said Flynn, who shot 3-of-6 beyond the arc in last Wednesday’s rematch with Knox. “If I see one go in and get it going, I know it’s going to be a long game for the other team.”

The high school all-stater admitted that he needed to regain some confidence after a rocky freshman season. The year actually started decently for Flynn, who played at least 20 minutes in each of

Monmouth’s first three games, averaging an even 10 points. But he only topped the 20-minute mark once the rest of the season, scoring 55 total points for the year.

“I didn’t know how physical and quick the game was going to be,” he said. “Also, I started thinking about my shot, and my confidence went down. My goal coming into this season was to have more confidence.”

“Making the transition from 1A basketball to college is difficult,” said Skrivseth. “He got thrown into the fire as a freshman, and he learned some hard lessons. But now he’s taken that step as a player, which has been very important for our team. It’s been a nice development to see. That’s what you’re hoping for.”

Flynn is now playing the best ball of his college career at a crucial time for the Scots, who needed to keep winning games to stay in front of Ripon and Lake Forest in the MWC playoff race.

“I feel like I’ve been a part of the team’s success,” he said. “It feels really good to make the playoffs. We were picked last in the preseason rankings. We were the only ones who believed in us. We surprised some teams the first team around, but they were gunning for us the second time around.”

Monmouth closed its regular season Tuesday at second-place Cornell, which defeated the Scots by three points in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 17. The Scots and Rams are set up to meet a third time in the semifinal round of the MWC tourney.

The book isn’t closed yet on the first half of Flynn’s collegiate career, but the business and economics major is already looking ahead to what might be in store for the Scots down the road.

“I started out as a role player, but I want to become a bigger part of the team,” he said. “A lot of us are younger and will be together for a few more years. If we keep getting better, we can be the best team in the conference, by far.”

“With a really good offseason, Declan could take another step, even,” said Skrivseth of the rising talent.