In 2nd season, DeVoe looks for Navy rebound

November 09, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Recruiting and retention remain the top priorities for Don DeVoe, beginning his second season as Navy basketball coach.

Last season, his first at the academy, DeVoe not only couldn't recruit players, but he also didn't retain all the ones he inherited.

Four games into the season, the then-winless Midshipmen lost in overtime to Division III Gettysburg, a defeat so disheartening that three players -- starting sophomore guard Brian Cochran and reserves Kevin Havens and Kevin Kozak -- quit the team.

"You don't want players quitting on you," said DeVoe, a Bob Knight disciple who had considerable success in previous stops at Virginia Tech and Tennessee. "They have to realize that every season has peaks and valleys, and you have to ride them out."

An encouraging finish left the Mids 8-19, and DeVoe expects more peaks than valleys this season. He has recruited well, landing two promising guards in 5-foot-8 Brian Walker of Marion, Ind., who has been compared to Muggsy Bogues because of his great acceleration, and Scott Holden, an all-purpose guard from Cape May, N.J.

It is quite possible both freshmen could be starters before the Mids begin their Patriot League schedule in January.

DeVoe also has retained all of the underclass lettermen from last season's team, led by senior guard and captain Victor Mickel, a defensive specialist; aggressive junior forward Wes Cooper (10.3 ppg); and promising sophomore center Alex Kohnen.

Last season's leading scorer, forward Chuck Robinson (10.3 ppg), has graduated. But Robinson's erratic play and questionable shot selection contributed heavily to the team's inconsistency.

Navy had trouble scoring last season, averaging 63 points a game. For that, DeVoe takes most of the blame.

"We had lulls in our offense when we were very conservative," he said. "We didn't have players with very good field-goal percentages except for Cooper. It became a state of mind where guys didn't want to shoot the ball, and we wound up taking bad shots with the shot clock running out. I've got to get them in a scoring mode. We have guys who can shoot the ball."

DeVoe can play a more up-tempo game this season if he puts the ball in Walker's hands. In early practice, Walker has impressed the veterans.

"From what I've heard, he's the quickest guard we've ever had at the Academy," DeVoe said. "He'll give us another dimension offensively."

Cooper, who spent the summer in informal workouts with Walker, said: "He'll be a terrific point guard if he keeps his head straight. I'm sure there will be an adjustment period for everyone, but he can definitely make us run, and he's an excellent passer. You've got to keep your head up all the time, he's that quick with the ball."

The sleeper on the team is Kohnen, who averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds as a plebe. But the well-proportioned, 6-11 center showed his potential in grabbing 17 rebounds and scoring 14 points against Lehigh.

"I really believe Kohnen can be a force in the Patriot League," DeVoe said. "He has definite skills."

DeVoe also has a promising freshman in guard Randy Torgrimson, whose brother, Ryan, is a junior reserve guard.

"Randy is out of North Dakota, which also produced Phil Jackson," DeVoe said, referring to the former New York Knicks forward and current Chicago Bulls coach. "Kids from up there are usually real tough."

The Mids open their season at home against Air Force on Nov. 27 after exhibitions against Court Authority (Nov. 17) and the Vienna (Austria) Basket Flyers (Nov. 21).

"All of my assistants volunteered to scout the Vienna Flyers," DeVoe said. "But for some reason I couldn't get anyone to scout Court Authority [a Richmond-based AAU team]."

NOTES: DeVoe said he learned the difficulties of recruiting for service academies as Knight's assistant at Army in the mid-1960s. . . . He picks Fordham, with several highly touted transfers, as the team to beat in the Patriot League.

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