Navy on target during 7-2 start

Freshmen, 40 percent 3-point shooting spark Mids early

Pac-10 flexes muscles

Around the perimeter

December 06, 2006|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun reporter

That lack of name recognition — Navy doesn't have a single senior in its rotation. The Midshipmen don't rely on one lead guard to get them into their offense, or a quality big man.

That lack of name recognition - and just three conference wins last season - had Navy predicted to finish seventh in the eight-team Patriot League, but balance and a deep freshman class have Navy off to its best start since 1998-99.

If the Mids (7-2) beat Pennsylvania at Alumni Hall tomorrow (8 p.m., CSTV), they should take a 10-2 record against Georgetown on Dec. 23. Their only losses have come at other Big East teams, St. John's and Villanova. Coach Billy Lange was an assistant to the Wildcats' Jay Wright for three seasons, and often uses a four-guard attack, just as his former boss did last season.

Trey Stanton is Navy's tallest player, but the plebe is not your typical 6-foot-10 forward. He was 6-3 midway through high school, grew up facing the basket and takes nearly four three-pointers per game. The Mids make 10 threes a game, but when they do put a guy on the block, it's more likely to be 6-2 Corey Johnson than Stanton.

"We consider Trey a guard in our offense, and post up our smaller guys a lot," Lange said. "We'll play the guys who can play. If it's five guards, so be it. That's what people in the Patriot League and at the service academies have to do. It's not the same system that you saw at Villanova last year, but it is the same mind-set. What's made it go is that this whole team makes the extra pass."

It helps that the guys getting the ball can shoot. Despite a recent mini-slump by 6-5 junior Greg Sprink, the leading scorer with 17.2 points a game, Navy has made 40 percent of its three-pointers. It's shooting 78.2 percent at the free-throw line. Kaleo Kina, a 6-3 sophomore, and Stanton are also averaging in double figures, but the influence of the freshman class doesn't stop there.

T.J. Topercer starts at forward. Chris Harris and Derek Young (Archbishop Spalding) give the plebes half of the eight-man rotation, and 6-8 Bobby Fenske has as much potential as any other first-year player.

"We've implemented about three-tenths of our concepts," Lange said. "We're using about one-tenth of them."

Navy, which last went to the NCAA tournament in 1998, should be considerably bigger next season. Its class of 2011 recruits include two post players, 6-10 Mark Veazey out of Atlanta and 6-9 Jeremy Wilson of Texas.

Pacific-10 power

O.J. Mayo's commitment to Southern California will put two of the nation's top high schoolers in Los Angeles next season.

Kevin Love, a 6-9, 240-pound player out of Oregon, is hailed for the fundamentals that have been drilled into him by his father, a connection incongruous to anyone who saw Stan Love with the old Baltimore Bullets. The ninth pick in the 1971 draft, Love averaged 7.9 points as a rookie, was out of the NBA by his fourth season and until now remained best known for having a brother sing in the Beach Boys.

The top-ranked Bruins, who play No. 6 Texas A&M in Anaheim on Saturday, are at the head of a solid Pacific-10 that ranks behind only the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Rating Percentage Index. Unranked Oregon won at Georgetown, and No. 13 Washington, the conference's third unbeaten, finally leaves Seattle on Sunday, when it plays at No. 18 Gonzaga.

Waiting for a win

Coppin State and Morgan State open their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedules tonight (7:30) at Hill Field House. The Eagles got a good win over La Salle and lost to host Iowa in the Hawkeye Challenge. Morgan State is 0-6, but coming off an encouraging performance at Penn State.

Bears coach Todd Bozeman is still seeking his first victory at the college level since March 3, 1996, when California beat Stanford. That win was among 30 stripped from Cal because of NCAA rules violations that kept Bozeman out of the game for a decade. He's paid his debt and is close to getting these Bears to play as hard as he wants.

It's a doubleheader at Hill tonight, where the Coppin women begin work on a third straight MEAC crown for coach Derek Brown.

Tap-ins

No one in the Missouri Valley Conference has a losing record. ... Loyola opens Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play Friday at Reitz Arena against St. Peter's. ... Seton Hall's trip to Morgan State on Thanksgiving weekend came a season too late for Marcus Cousin. The 6-11 center from Randallstown transferred to Houston, where he'll have two seasons of eligibility remaining. ... Think Georgetown will be ready for Oral Roberts on Saturday at the Verizon Center? Oral Roberts, remember, won at No. 12 Kansas. ... Oral Roberts lost to Tulsa, which is 6-1 under second-year coach Doug Wojcik, the point guard on Navy's best teams ever.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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