MORAGA -- Even before rubbing elbows with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Tony Parker as Australia's starting point guard at the London Olympics, Matthew Dellavedova was equipped with a mature leadership skill set.
"We've had some great ones," Saint Mary's College coach Randy Bennett said. "I've never had one quite like this."
Four times each year, Bennett asks his players to rate the leadership qualities of their teammates in 12 categories, including work ethic, confidence, mental toughness, trust, ability to unify the team and confront his teammates, and respect.
"I don't know there's a category that Delly's not first in," teammate Beau Levesque said.
In fact, on the most recent survey, Dellavedova scored at the top in every category. As usual.
Quiet and self-effacing away from his teammates, Dellavedova pushes all the right buttons as senior leader of the Gaels, who are off to an 8-3 start this season. He scores (18.5 points per game), passes (6.1 assists), talks and provides a wordless example.
"The great thing about Matt is he only cares about how we do," Bennett said. "He's a 10 on leadership. There's nobody up there with him."
The reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Dellavedova was the only college player to start for his team at the Summer Games. If his status with his Saint Mary's teammates already was cemented, the Olympics showed he could hang with the big kids.
Three of his Australian teammates were 10 years his senior. The opposition included a virtual NBA all-star roster. But Dellavedova thrived, averaging 7.3 points and a team-best 4.5 assists per game in London.
After posting seven rebounds and four assists in a quarterfinal loss to the United States, Dellavedova had one final brush with greatness.
"Kobe said, 'Keep working hard.' That's pretty cool," Dellavedova recalled.
Playing in the same backcourt with ex-Gaels star Patty Mills, Dellavedova acknowledged the Olympic experience gave him a boost.
"They're the best in the world, and I'm confident I can play at that level now," he said. "Just playing against men and at that level, really smart players, bigger and stronger and longer, you've got less room for error and you've got to make the decision quicker. That really helped out."
Even Bennett was impressed.
"I thought he'd be good, but I didn't know he'd do what he did over there," he said.
The London Olympics fulfilled a lifelong dream for Dellavedova, who grew up in the small town of Maryborough in Queensland.
"Ever since he started playing as a 4-year-old, all he wanted to do was wear the green and gold," his father, Mark, said. "We're a sporting nation, and it's a very big deal."
Dellavedova said he began learning to assert his leadership while attending the Australian Institute of Sport as a teenager. By the time he arrived in Moraga for the 2009-10 season, his new teammates saw it.
Omar Samhan, the star center of the Gaels' NCAA Sweet 16 tournament team that season, said Dellavedova was different than the other freshmen on the roster.
"Delly had that innate sense of how to be a player and could lead because the other freshmen saw it," Samhan said. "Even though they were same age, they always looked up to him."
Samhan now believes Dellavedova has a shot at playing in the NBA.
"He eats, sleeps and dreams basketball," Samhan said.
And reads it.
"Not only does he have the God-given qualities of a leader," teammate Levesque said, "he researches the craft also. He reads about different leadership styles, ways to motivate."
He's read books by Phil Jackson and Andre Agassi and has one by John Wooden waiting on his shelf. His favorites are "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle, and "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin. On the Gaels' trip to Northern Iowa last weekend, Dellavedova packed a biography of Rafael Nadal.
"He's drawn to bookshelves," his mother, Leanne, said. "Anything about health and diet and leadership, and from athletes who have done great things."
Bennett said Dellavedova has improved his shooting, has a quicker release and is better defensively.
All Dellavedova cares about is whether it adds up to victories -- a bottom line his mother was reminded of last summer in London.
"We were very proud of him after the first game and thought he played quite well," Leanne said. "I was congratulating him and he said, 'But we didn't win. We lost.' That's what Matty's all about."