Mids are un­veil­ing a dif­fer­ent ros­ter

DeChellis pleased with re­sults of scrim­mages, still sort­ing pos­si­ble line­ups

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Bill Wagner

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.

PAUL W. GILLE­SPIE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

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