Naval Academy visit is an eye-opener

Mar­quette, Ohio State and Van­der­bilt play­ers learn about mid­ship­men’s life

Baltimore Sun - - MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Bill Wagner

Mar­quette bas­ket­ball player Duane Wil­son stood in Te­cum­seh Court and watched with amaze­ment as the en­tire Brigade of Mid­ship­men gath­ered for the noon meal for­ma­tion.

Wil­son was trans­fixed as com­pany com­man­ders barked or­ders and 4,500 mid­ship­men re­sponded in uni­son. The Mil­wau­kee na­tive was sur­prised when a stern-look­ing Ma­rine of­fi­cer with a chest­ful of medals in­spected uni­forms of var­i­ous mid­ship­men, of­ten with his nose just inches from the faces of those stand­ing at at­ten­tion.

“This right here was awe­some. It’s like a team. Ev­ery­body is on the same page. Ev­ery­thing these mids do is to­gether as one,” Wil­son said.

Mem­bers of the Mar­quette, Ohio State and Van­der­bilt men’s bas­ket­ball teams toured the Naval Academy on Thurs­day morn­ing. They climbed into the cock­pit of a Navy he­li­copter, boarded a Yard Pa­trol boat and pre­tended to fire a ma­chine gun from a High Mo­bil­ity Mul­tipur­pose Wheeled Ve­hi­cle.

For the coaches in­volved with the third an­nual Vet­er­ans Clas­sic, the chance for their play­ers to learn more about a ser­vice academy was in­valu­able.

“We get to see a side of life that our guys don’t even know ex­ists,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Guys watch war movies and think they un­der­stand what it’s like to serve in the armed forces. They re­ally don’t know what goes into the train­ing. So this is a unique op­por­tu­nity for our men to see it first­hand.

“I now know why Amer­ica’s great­est lead­ers have come through the ser­vice acad­e­mies. I don’t think our guys can re­ally com­pre­hend the daily dis­ci­pline, or­ga­ni­za­tion and time man­age­ment these mid­ship­men must have.”

For Matta, some of the ba­sic el­e­ments of daily life at the Naval Academy were awe-in­spir­ing. The Golden Ea­gles, Buck­eyes and Com­modores be­gan the tour by ob­serv­ing morn­ing col­ors in front of Ban­croft Hall.

“You look at the ma­tu­rity and dis­ci­pline of this in­sti­tu­tion, it’s re­mark­able. We watched them raise the flag this morn­ing and it was one of the most amaz­ing things I’ve ever seen,” Matta said. “There is an el­e­ment of pride here that you don’t see any­where else. These young men and women are here for all the right rea­sons.”

Matta sat in­side a ship sim­u­la­tor that was so re­al­is­tic, “I had to keep telling my­self ‘You’re in a build­ing. You’re in a build­ing.’ It re­ally felt like we were out on the wa­ter.” Ohio State’s 12th-year coach was glad he wasn’t aboard the de­stroyer be­ing steered af­ter sev­eral of his play­ers col­lided with an air­craft car­rier while try­ing to nav­i­gate through a chan­nel on the way out of port.

“The sim­u­la­tor was def­i­nitely cool, see­ing who could pos­si­bly drive a ship,” said Ohio State fresh­man cen­ter Micah Pot­ter, who read­ily con­ceded that he crashed. “I did, Trevor [Thomp­son] did, a lot of guys did. That was also the hard­est pos­si­ble sce­nario.”

Pot­ter pointed out that team­mate Jimmy Jent per­formed quite well at the helm. In­struc­tors told Jent he ranked in the 90th per­centile for steering abil­ity.

Pot­ter’s ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Ron­ald Ray, served in the Navy and of­ten talked about the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I have a very strong dis­ci­pline in my fam­ily. I am very re­spect­ful of au­thor­i­ties and try my best not to cuss,” Pot­ter said. “That prob­a­bly comes from my mom be­ing the daugh­ter of some­one whoserved in the Navy. She tried to in­still those traits in us as well.”

Pot­ter, a 6-foot-9 fresh­man who is sched­uled to start tonight against Navy, was con­stantly ask­ing ques­tions of the of­fi­cers over­see­ing the ship sim­u­la­tor, YP boat and he­li­copter-Humvee pre­sen­ta­tions.

Mar­quette coach Steve Wo­j­ciechowski grew up in Sev­erna Park and oc­ca­sion­ally played pickup bas­ket­ball at the Naval Academy. How­ever, not even Wo­j­ciechowski had re­ceived such an up-close and per­sonal look at the in­sti­tu­tion.

“This has been an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence on so many fronts. It’s very en­light­en­ing for our play­ers to see that other peo­ple their age are not only mak­ing a huge in­vest­ment in their fu­ture by at­tend­ing the Naval Academy, but are also com­mit­ting to one day putting their life on the line,” said Wo­j­ciechowski, in his third year at the Mil­wau­kee school.

Wo­j­ciechowski be­lieves the visit could serve as a valu­able les­son this sea­son as his Golden Ea­gles “saw first­hand the char­ac­ter traits of dis­ci­pline, honor and com­mit­ment.”

“I think the play­ers gain a great per­spec­tive from be­ing here,” he said. “Hav­ing grown up in this area, I know the Naval Academy is a spe­cial place. But for most of our guys, this is their first in­doc­tri­na­tion into the mil­i­tary. It’s a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence for them.” At An­napo­lis 6:30: Van­der­bilt vs. Mar­quette 9: Ohio State@Navy TV: CBS Sports Net­work

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