The last time Navy's basketball team traveled to Europe for a preseason tour, good things followed.
"Four years ago, we went to Finland and Sweden with a lot of a promising sophomore class that would really take off," said coach Don DeVoe. "We came back and won two Patriot League championships as juniors and seniors."
DeVoe is hoping history repeats after the Midshipmen undergo a 10-day, seven-game tour of France and Italy beginning tomorrow.The tour, which opens in Paris and ends in Rome, will be a first-time experience for everyone on the roster except center Sitapha Savane, a native of Senegal.
"I lived in Geneva [Switzerland] for 2 1/2 years and spent a lot of time in France," said Savane. "It's a great country."
Savane said he will try to function as a guide for the party of approximately 20, including coaches but not plebes (exempted by NCAA rules), who will encounter teams with former American college players and a plethora of three-point shooters.
Forward John Williams (Broadneck High) will keep a diary of the journey, which will test Navy's fitness and perhaps give early insight into the team's Patriot League title chances.
"We found out about this in the middle of last year," said Williams, "and everybody was immediately excited. It should be great competition."
Added forward Chris Williams, who turned an ankle in the first scrimmage for the trip: "This will bring our team closer together, and we'll have some fun, too. I'm sure there will be a lot of stories to tell. I'm going to help John write them in the diary."
Savane pointed out what Americans have learned in recent years -- that the European players are very structured.
"They pass the ball around a lot and run their sets," he said. "Most of them have grown up learning in a very disciplined environment, so there aren't as many turnovers as here. And they can all really shoot, even the big guys."
Navy was picked to finish second in the preseason Patriot League coaches' poll and is expected to battle Bucknell and Lafayette for the championship. Its only graduation losses were guard Skip Victor and center Josh Williams.
But the team was embarrassed in a 53-45 defeat to Lehigh in the first round of the league tournament, and DeVoe has seized the opportunity of the trip to work on the team's shooting.
"We need to find some scoring and get into an offensive mode," he said. "We finished last season on a real down note."
Navy's players, sacrificing personal time for the trip, will not miss academic work.
"This gives us a leg up on everybody we play against," said DeVoe.
Pub Date: 8/05/99