Mids are unveiling a different roster
DeChellis pleased with results of scrimmages, still sorting possible lineups
Coach Ed DeChellis believed his Navy men’s basketball team played pretty well in scrimmages against Liberty and William & Mary. Neither of those schools is anywhere near the caliber of Ohio State, Navy’s season-opening opponent in the third annual Veterans Classic.
Having graduated three senior starters and lost a fourth member of the rotation to transfer, DeChellis has a revamped roster he was still sorting through in the last days before the nationally televised opener Friday night against the Buckeyes of the Big Ten Conference.
“I think we’ve had a very good fall up to this point in terms of our team and what we’ve been able to accomplish. I think we improved in each scrimmage, so that was positive,” DeChellis said last week during Navy’s basketball media day. “That being said, I don’t know how good we are. I really don’t. I’m looking forward to seeing how this team evolves because I think we have a lot of nice pieces.”
Navy’s two biggest holes are at point guard and the post position, where Tilman Dunbar and Will Kelly, respectively, must be replaced. Dunbar, a three-year starter, finished sixth on Navy’s all-time list with 434 career assists. Kelly played in 125 career games, starting 77, Veterans Classic Friday, 9 p.m. TV: CBSSN Radio: 1430 AM “I think we have a lot of nice pieces,” coach Ed DeChellis said last week during Navy’s basketball media day. and ranks second in program history with199 blocked shots.
DeChellis said junior Nourse Fox and sophomore Hasan Abdullah are battling to replace Dunbar at point guard. Fox played in 32 games as Dunbar’s backup last season, averaging 8.4 minutes and getting 30 assists.
“Thepoint guard spot has been a very good battle, a very competitive opportunity for Nourse Fox and Hassan Abdullah,” DeChellis said. “We’ve hadtwoscrimmages, andbothof the guys have played well in both.”
Abdullah appeared in eight games before a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. At 6 feet and 195 pounds, he impressed the coaching staff with his speed and quickness before going down a year ago. DeChellis said the Alabama native, who is fully recovered from the injury, must learn how to operate at a proper pace while being more vocal on the court.
Senior Edward Alade would seem to be the likely heir apparent to Kelly at the pivot spot, because he has the most experience. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Texan has played in 88 games, starting 22. After Alade averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds as a sophomore, his minutes and statistics dropped last season because Kelly played so well.
“Consistency is what I’m on Ed Alade about. He’s responded some days; other days he hasn’t responded so well,” DeChellis said. “Other guys are pushing him. Wehave a lot of competition up front.”
Long-armed freshman Evan Wieck has looked good in preseason and is very much in the hunt to start down low. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound player from Amarillo, Texas, was a key member of the Hargrave Military Academy team that won the National Prep Tournament championship for 2015-16.
“Evan just does everything solid. He hedges ball screens real well. He makes his free throws. Hemakes open jumpers out to15 feet,” DeChellis said. “Hejust has a feel for the game.”
DeChellis had a similar description of James Butler, another plebe who is a virtual clone of Wieck at 6 feet 8 and 230 pounds. Butler was a Washington Post first-team All-Metro selection after averaging 27.5 points as a senior at Lake Braddock. The Fairfax, Va., native is the son of Vernon Butler, one of Navy’s all-time greatest players.
“JamesneedstobeJames. He’s not Vernon. They’re different people, different players at different stages of their career,” DeChellis said.
Navy’s top returning player is junior swingman Shawn Anderson, who led the team in scoring last season with 13.2 points per game. The versatile 6-foot-4, 220-pound player also ranked second in assists (87), third in steals (26) and fourth in rebounding (4.0 average).
DeChellis said Anderson sat out all September with a calf injury and is “just getting back into full swing.” The sixth-year head coach is pushing the Pennsylvania resident to become a more complete player.
Power forward Tom Lacey, who started 30 of 33 games and averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds, is the only other returning starter. The rugged 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior grabbed 11 rebounds in the scrimmage with William & Mary, and the coaching staff loves the passion, energy and emotion he displays on the court.
Wing guard Kendall Knorr was the other starter lost to graduation and will likely be replaced in the lineup by senior Tim Abruzzo, who led Navy in 3-pointers made (40) and steals (35) last season. Abruzzo, who will need to increase his scoring after averaging 6.6 points, is almost two years removed from a severe knee injury and is moving much better.
Junior Bryce Dulin and sophomore Ryan Pearson are two other candidates for increased playing time on the wing. Dulin, who scored a career-high16 points against Colgate in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League tournament, recently broke a bone in his cheek while diving for a loose ball and will be out another week or two. Pearson, who can get hot from 3-point range, scored 27 points in the William & Mary scrimmage.
DeChellis noted the Midshipmen must improve their perimeter defense now that Kelly, the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, is not lurking near the basket.
“Will affected a lot of shots. We don’t have that. We have to be more solid defensively. We can’t gamble because we don’t have someone back there who can change shots,” DeChellis said.
Navy has improved its record, overall and within the Patriot League, every season under DeChellis. The Midshipmen are coming off a 19-14 (9-9) season, their first winning campaign since 2008-09.
“We have a confident feel to us. I think we’ve improved every year and that’s a positive, but we haven’t won the prize yet,” DeChellis said.