DeVoe brings thinking game to Navy Up-tempo replaces the run-and-gun

November 22, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

When basketball practice started last month, new Navy coach Don DeVoe had no immediate desire to throw out a basketball and watch his team scrimmage. He didn't want to find out who was capable of going one-on-one. He was in no rush to see who could consistently stick the jumper.

All DeVoe wanted to do right away was teach.

"It's going to take a period of time for the players to feel comfortable in what we're trying to teach them," DeVoe said shortly after that first practice.

What DeVoe is trying to teach Navy is a style of play that will improve a team that finished 6-22 overall, and 1-13 in the Patriot League. Under Pete Herrmann, Navy spent the past two seasons playing a run-and-gun style in which shots were launched and points scored in record numbers. Herrmann preached that every shot was a good shot as long as a player was open.

Though it kept the crowds entertained, it resulted in a 14-43 record.

DeVoe is hoping crowds this season will get their pleasure watching a winner. And winning with DeVoe will come via a tenacious man-to-man defense and an up-tempo offense that will call for the team to play with intelligence.

"It's wonderful," said senior John Haase, a guard/forward who led the team with 13 points per game last season. "We're going to use our minds to our advantage and work to control the ball offensively and defensively. We feel confident we can get the job done."

Confidence is one thing. Getting the players to win is another. While DeVoe has a big-time basketball reputation, he's going to have to try to win without big-time players.

"Obviously, we're not as talented here," DeVoe said, comparing Navy to other programs he has coached. "But there is more talent than meets the eye. There are some young men here that have some skills."

Once again the most important player will be junior point guard Victor Mickel, who started 27 games last year. Considered an excellent defender, Mickel has yet to develop a penchant for successfully dishing off (2.4 assists per game) or scoring (5.5 points per game). But so far in practice, DeVoe has been happy with what he has seen.

"He's a pretty slick guy and he has a sense to wanting to learn," DeVoe said. "I think he'll be receptive to doing what we want him to do. He's pretty good."

The shooting-guard position will be shared by Haase, the team's top-returning three-point shooter, and Michael Burd, who needs 29 three-pointers to break the Naval Academy record. Sophomore Kevin Kozak, who is capable of playing both guard positions, will also see time.

"We have a multitude of players who are good shooters, and we have to help them get shots," DeVoe said. "We don't have the luxury of having guys go one-on-one and creating."

Most of Navy's question marks relate to the front line. Center Nick Marusich (12 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game) was graduated and Derrick Wall (9.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) transferred. That leaves the middle in the hands of sophomore Larry Green and pTC junior Robert Catten, both of whom are inexperienced.

At forward, sophomore Wes Cooper returns, and plebe James Norris (6 feet 7, 220 pounds) is expected to contribute. But the key will be the performance of senior Chuck Robinson, brother of David, who still holds 33 Navy records.

"Last year I felt uncertain because my role was never specified," Robinson said. "I'm one of the better athletes on the team and I feel like I can be one of the better defensive players. That can happen now, so I'm really looking forward to the season."

Navy will lack depth, and has five straight losing seasons and four straight seasons of 20 losses or more, but DeVoe is confident he can create a competitive situation that will help fill seats at Alumni Hall. His reputation has Navy picked as high as fourth in the Patriot League in some preseason publications.

Navy basketball at a glance

D8

Coach: Don DeVoe, first season (19 years, 328-228)

Affiliation: Patriot League

1991-92 record: 6-22, 1-13 in Patriot League

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM)

Starters lost: Derrick Wall, Mark Majick, Nick Marusich

Outlook: Navy is trying to add some stability to a program that hasn't had a winning record since 1986-87. Eight players who saw significant playing time return, led by G/F John Haase, whose 13 points per game led the team. After playing a run-and-gun style of ball under Pete Herrmann the past two years, it should be interesting to see how the Midshipmen adjust to DeVoe's more disciplined offensive attack. DeVoe is looking for some leadership from F Chuck Robinson, a great athlete who never developed as a consistent player under Herrmann. Of the 22 losses last season, 14 were by eight points or less. DeVoe's experience should be able to overcome some of those close defeats, and Navy could be a .500 team.

@Returning players Name Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt. Fast breaks

Michael Burd Sr. G 6-2 195 Career .345 pct. on threes

Rob Catten Jr. C 6-9 200 Played in one game last season

Brian Cochran So. G 6-4 186 5.7 ppg, fine shooter off dribble

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