Navy's optimism rests in return of five starters from last year's squad

Veteran experience and chemistry unfolding in practices and scrimmages for Midshipmen

November 07, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The rebuilding project surrounding the Navy men’s basketball team is in its third year under coach Ed DeChellis. And the hope this winter revolves around the return of all five starters from last season’s squad.

Junior forward Worth Smith (10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game), sophomore point guard Tilman Dunbar (9.5 points and 4.9 assists per game), junior guard Brandon Venturini (8.8 points per game) and senior guard Thurgood Wynn (3.9 points per game) are back. And sophomore center Will Kelly (2.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game) and senior forward James Loupos (2.5 points per game) started 12 contests each.

The Midshipmen are hoping that the returning experience will be a springboard to improving on last year’s 8-23 overall record and 2-12 mark in the Patriot League.

“It is a big comfort,” the 6-foot-3, 182-pound Wynn said. “You see great teams in college that have been together for a long time, and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ They seem to know where guys are. You can kind of sense that in practice. I’ll sprint out on the wing and Tilman will be driving with the ball, and I’ll see the pass and expect to catch it. When you have a team that’s been together for so long, you know how players play. So when you’re driving down the middle of the court on a fastbreak, you know that they’re going to be there for threes. So it’s little things like that that help in an offense. You just know where guys are.”

That familiarity between players is unfolding in practices and scrimmages, according to DeChellis.

“When we run a set play, guys know the set play,” he said. “They know where the screen angle is. They know how to free themselves, how to get themselves open. I think that’s important. They know our transition better, they know where the shots are coming from in transition. We talked about a guy like Worth Smith. He knows now where his options are in this set play. He knows where his options are to drive the ball. He knows, ‘When I come off this thing now, if this guy is here, I’m sweeping, I’m driving right hard, and if I can’t get to the basket, I know someone is filling up for a pitch.’ That was different stuff for those guys. … So I think they have a better understanding of the sets and where they can do different things.”

DeChellis is also excited about depth provided by freshmen like 6-9, 216-pound center Edward Alade and 6-4, 206-pound guard Michael Brown. The infusion of new talent combined with the presence of veteran leadership has raised team morale.

“We just have the confidence that we lacked last year,” Smith said. “Last year, we had confidence, but it wasn’t confidence that we had the green light to take the open shot or who would make the shot. These scrimmages that we’ve had, we’ve won some scrimmages and we played well. That has given us a lot of the confidence that we need.”

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